Red alert at Lancs park as squirrels fight back
The family owners of a wildlife-friendly caravan park near Lancaster have declared a state of red alert after a sighting this month of a red squirrel in its grounds.
Now Moss Wood caravan park in the village of Cockerham hopes this could herald the return of the much-loved but endangered creatures to the region.
A fast-fingered guest at the park managed to capture the red squirrel on camera as it feasted at one of the bird feeding stations at Moss Wood.
The picture allowed experts from Lancashire Wildlife Trust to confirm that it was indeed a true red, one of whose numbers are being closely monitored by the organisation.
Now the Wild family, which has owned Moss Wood for over 40 years, is asking guests and staff to be on urgent look-out for signs of any potentially lethal grey squirrels.
Many greys carry the squirrel pox virus which is deadly to reds, and was responsible for wiping out 80% of Lancashire’s red squirrel population less than a decade ago.
Since then, volunteers at Lancashire Wildlife Trust have been fighting to restore the population – and evidence suggests that they are winning with growing numbers of colonies being recorded.
“Key to helping the reds gain a foothold at Moss Wood will be taking prompt action if there is any evidence of grey squirrels attempting to proliferate,” said Henry.
“We will be making an early start on our winter wildlife feeding programme to help the red squirrels maintain their energy levels in the colder months.
“For this we use a special seed blend containing oil of anise which, although rather costly, is very effective in acting as a magnet for red squirrels.
“For many years we have taken steps to ensure that the natural environment of Moss Wood remains welcoming to all types of animals and birds.
“But whilst our sister park, Skelwith Fold in Ambleside, has successfully won back red squirrels, we’ve so far had to accept that they’ve not penetrated this part of Lancashire.
“However, that could all be about to change with this new sighting – and we’re all extremely excited to see if this becomes the new frontier for the red fight-back!” added Henry.
Last year, the park was a finalist in the sustainable tourism category of the Lancashire Tourism Awards, earning a place among the top four candidates.
And this spring, Moss Wood was presented once again with the prestigious David Bellamy Conservation Award at its top gold level for the twentieth consecutive year.
Meanwhile, Henry says that guests will be helping with sightings until early November when the park closes for the season, after which staff vigilance will be stepped up.
There is more information about Moss Wood Caravan Park at www.mosswood.co.uk