Red Squirrel Conservation Project at Coolwood Wildlife Park

 Feeding Points:
We have established and continue to maintain feeding points in the wooded areas where the red squirrel has been sighted. This in the hope that feeding a natural diet of seeds and nuts will encourage these visiting squirrels to remain in this areas.
These feeding points are in carefully selected secluded and quiet areas as far away as possible from the roadways which can prove fatal on occasions.
 Hair Analysis:
We hope to research squirrel specific feeder boxes in and around the priority woodlands to determine distribution of and habitat use of the red squirrels and also monitor for signs of grey squirrels incursion.
These boxes contain hair collection material to collect hair from the squirrel when they enter to collect the food. Analysis of the collected hair identifies the squirrel type.
 Environment:
Protection of the natural environment is paramount and de-forestation is not allowed.
 Data:
Keeping and updating records of all sightings of the squirrel.
We hold public seminars in the park on the red squirrel.
We request notification of squirrel sightings in all areas both outside and within the park.
 Red Squirrel Seminar:
The first Red Squirrel Seminar took place during the Easter holidays and it was a great success as we had a lot of people visiting the park on the day.
We started the talk by explaining to people what a red squirrel looked like, pointing out the difference between a young squirrel and mature squirrel.
Red squirrels have fur which ranges from blonde or pale orange through deep reddish brown to almost black ear tuffs, which is easier to spot in the winter , and a bushy tails, which may be bleached lighter in the summer.
Red squirrels are well adapted to the woodland habitat, their light weight and agility enabling them to reach the thinnest branches at the tops of trees. They use their tails to balance, and their double jointed ankles and long claws help them to hold on to the bark when running up and down trees trunks.
If squirrels are disturbed, they will often freeze for 5 to 10 seconds, pressing themselves against the trunk of the tree until they think its safe to move again. Squirrels have long whiskers which help them to find their way around their dreys.
The squirrels home is called a drey. A red squirrel will build its drey close to the main trunk, or in a fork of a tree and is used both for rearing young and nocturnal shelter. The drey consists of a hallow ball of twigs and leaves, which is then lined with soft hair and moss. In summer flat dreys may also be constructed. These are less protective structures used for resting during the daylight hours.
Squirrels can sometimes use natural holes in trees which are known as dens.
We visited many locations in the park where red squirrels have been seen.
The autumn and winter seed harvest is extremely important, both for survival during the winter months and to ensure breeding success the following spring. Plentiful supplies of tree seeds, nuts, berries, fungi,buds, shoots, flowers, bark and even insects in the summer are a must if the squirrel is to be retained in an area.
Chewed and stripped pine cones and broken nut shells are clues to show where a squirrel has been feeding.
Squirrels can even tell good nuts from rotten ones by weighing them and shaking them in their paws. If the nuts rattles, the kernel is likely to be small and shrivelled, and not worth eating.
Squirrels do not hibernate, but continue to forage for food throughout the winter, although they may not emerge from the shelter of their dreys in very cold or wet weather.
Young squirrels is known as a kittens and their survival is determines largely by the weather conditions during the first winter, with up to 85% of young perishing during harsh conditions.
We concluded by outlining what we do in Coolwood to conserve the red squirrel and also offered the public the opportunity of taking a squirrel sighting sheets which people can fill in and forward to us should they be fortunate enough to see squirrels in their home locations. They can fill in these sheets and return to us in Coolwood.
We hope to hold another seminar in Summer 2015 date and time to be decided later.

Download Red Squirrel sighting form here