Red squirrels choose inner-city for comeback

The red squirrel is making a comeback. But the creature immortalised as Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter is thriving not in green and pleasant Middle England but in inner-city Liverpool.

The red squirrel is making a comeback. But the creature immortalised as Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter is thriving not in green and pleasant Middle England but in inner-city Liverpool.

The numbers of reds has declined dramatically since the introduction to the UK of their grey cousins from the US. Now they have unexpectedly reversed the trend in the most improbable surroundings.

A population of 55 red squirrels is flourishing in 12 acres of woodland in the Liverpudlian district of Fazakerley and spilling over into a cemetery, their territory bordered by a hospital and a prison. They are breeding so successfully that the population is dispersing across Liverpool and setting up home in parks up to five miles away.

The numbers have astonished conservationists, who had thought that the local population of native red squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, had died out almost 20 years ago. The increase was first noticed by Adrian Leigh, a volunteer for the Wildlife Trusts. "There were one or two and then I did a count last year and there were 22," he said. "Now there are 52."

But the very existence of the squirrels has baffled the Wildlife Trusts. Not only are they reversing the general trend of greys, Sciurus carolinensis, displacing reds but they are actually sharing their woodland with grey squirrels. They are most likely to have come from a population of reds in a nature reserve at Formby on the coast, 10 miles away.

"It is possible that these reds have developed resistance to diseases they could pick up from the greys," said Steve White, a conservation officer for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust. "We have no idea why the reds have settled here. We thought we were dealing with a one-off that had somehow hung on but this is a sustained population and not a blip."

The general absence of broad-leafed trees in the park may also work in the reds' favour; they are thought to feed off the shoots and seeds of sycamore trees and seeds from the cones of conifers.

During the past 20 years the red squirrel has suffered one of the most catastrophic declines of any species and has been forced out of many of its strongholds. It is now generally restricted to the Isle of Wight, Brownsea island near Poole in Dorset, and parts of Cumbria and the North-East. Its population is just 160,000, with 120,000 of those in Scotland. The population of grey squirrels, introduced to the UK 100 years ago, now numbers 2.5 million.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThe ZX Spectrum is going back on sale - with all your favourite retro games
Sport
football
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk