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A tale of two squirrels at Trewithen Gardens for Probus School students

By WBCarol  |  Posted: November 28, 2012

Natasha Collings and Gary Long with Probus School children during the red squirrel workshop at Trewithen Gardens.

Natasha Collings and Gary Long with Probus School children during the red squirrel workshop at Trewithen Gardens.

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IT WAS what is often seen as a classic tale of goodies and baddies: cute fluffy creatures under threat and the eco-warriors battling to bring them back from the brink that kept youngsters enthralled at a special mammal-themed workshop at Truro's Trewithen Gardens.

Year 4 students from Probus School learned about the plight of the red squirrel, which has become the most threatened species of mammal in the UK, since the grey squirrel was introduced, and met some of the red squirrels being bred in Trewithen as part of a special conservation programme.

Led by Natasha Collings, coordinator of the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project, the workshop included an interactive presentation to teach children about how the grey squirrel was introduced to the UK, and the effect this had on the native wildlife, especially the red squirrel. The presentation also encompassed wider ecological themes including habitats, adaptation and camouflage.

Probus School Year 4 teacher Tony Bowyer said:  "This workshop fitted in perfectly with the class's science project about habitats.  They loved how active and fluffy the red squirrels are and really enjoyed learning about where they live and what they eat. 

"The children have never seen a red squirrel so this is a very special experience for them considering how rare they are."

Trewithen's head gardener, Gary Long invited a couple of lucky children into the enclosure to feed the squirrels. He  said: "It's really nice for the children to get out of the classroom and for them to experience something quite unique."

To attend or find out more about the red squirrel workshops call Natasha on 07825 507238.

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  • ReeceFowler  |  November 28 2012, 3:56PM

    Shagrats, "So what you are saying then, is the Grey Squirrel is a bit of a bully, nicking the Reds packed lunch, pushing him about in the playground and chasing him home from school, making the Red Squirrel move out. Well isn't it about time the Red Squirrels mum and dad told him to stand up to these Grey bullies and stop being such a wuss ! They need to kick them in the Hazels. They will never get a girlfriend if they keep getting sand kicked in their fluffy tails." This is real life, not a beatrix potter story. In real life, grey squirrels displace red squirrels through competition for food and by spreading the squirrel pox virus. Through competition alone, this rarely takes longer than 15 years. When squirrel pox is present, red squirrels can die out 17 to 25 times faster. Red squirrels have not evolved alongside grey squirrels, and they cannot coexist. You can have either red or grey squirrels, but not both.

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  • PaddyTrembath  |  November 28 2012, 10:25AM

    shagrats, This is real life, not a Beatrix Potter book.

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  • shagrats  |  November 28 2012, 9:50AM

    So what you are saying then, is the Grey Squirrel is a bit of a bully, nicking the Reds packed lunch, pushing him about in the playground and chasing him home from school, making the Red Squirrel move out. Well isn't it about time the Red Squirrels mum and dad told him to stand up to these Grey bullies and stop being such a wuss ! They need to kick them in the Hazels. They will never get a girlfriend if they keep getting sand kicked in their fluffy tails.

    Rate   -2
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  • shagrats  |  November 28 2012, 9:48AM

    So what you are saying then, is the Grey Squirrel is a bit of a bully, nicking the Reds packed lunch, pushing him about in the playground and chasing him home from school, making the Red Squirrel move out. Well isn't it about time the Red Squirrels mum and dad told him to stand up to these Grey bullies and stop being such a wuss ! They will never get a girlfriend if they keep getting sand kicked in their fluffy tails.

    Rate   -5
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  • ReeceFowler  |  November 27 2012, 5:30PM

    Oh, my original comment did work. Sorry about the double post.

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  • ReeceFowler  |  November 27 2012, 5:28PM

    For some reason my previous comment doesn't seem to have posted properly. Shagrats: "I've never seen a grey squirrel beat up a red squirrel, so i think all this "its the grey squirrels fault" is just made up" Grey squirrels rarely attack red ones. That isn't the problem. Grey squirrels do, however, out-compete red squirrels for food, especially in broadleaved woodland, largely due to the fact that the greys can eat acorns and other nuts before they are fully ripe. Reds cannot, except for hazelnuts. The red squirrel's inability to eat unripe nuts is not the only reason why reds suffer from competition with greys. Greys are bigger animals and eat more food than reds, which is another major part of the competition problem. Reds are more vulnerable to competition, and this often causes red squirrels to cease breeding when grey squirrels arrive in an area. Then there's squirrelpox. Grey squirrels are immune to this disease but can act as carriers. Grey squirrels pass the disease on to red ones, and when this happens, the infected red squirrel dies within 2 weeks. "It's the grey squirrels' fault" is not made up at all. It is well proven scientific FACT and is indisputable.

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  • ReeceFowler  |  November 27 2012, 5:18PM

    Shagrats, "I've never seen a grey squirrel beat up a red squirrel, so i think all this "its the grey squirrels fault" is just made up" Grey squirrels rarely atatck reds, but this isn't the problem. Grey squirrels out-compete red squirrels for food, especially in broadleaved woodland. Not only that, but the grey squirrel carries squirrel pox, a virus which the grey is immune to, but it is deadly to the red squirrel. Studies have shown a link between grey squirrels and declining red squirrels since the 30s and 40s. Studies since then have confirmed the processes by which grey squirrels wipe out red ones. "It's the grey squirrels' fault" is not made up at all. It is well proven scientific FACT and cannot be denied.

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  • shagrats  |  November 27 2012, 8:26AM

    I've never seen a grey squirrel beat up a red squirrel, so i think all this "its the grey squirrels fault" is just made up.

    Rate   -7
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