Saving Squirrel Nutkin

The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) has been a cultural icon in Britain at least since the beginning of the 20th century, when Beatrix Potter penned a children's tale about Squirrel Nutkin, an impertinent little chap who lived with his large extended family "in a wood at the edge of a lake." In Potter's day, red squirrels were a familiar sight in parks and gardens across Britain, but no longer. In recent decades, their population

Stephen Pincock
Jan 1, 2006

The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) has been a cultural icon in Britain at least since the beginning of the 20th century, when Beatrix Potter penned a children's tale about Squirrel Nutkin, an impertinent little chap who lived with his large extended family "in a wood at the edge of a lake." In Potter's day, red squirrels were a familiar sight in parks and gardens across Britain, but no longer. In recent decades, their population has been in catastrophic decline.

Part of that dwindling can be attributed to the loss of the squirrels' natural habitat, but a significant cause is the Eastern grey squirrel, an interloper first introduced from North America in 1876. It has turned out that greys are able to out-compete the reds with relative ease, and they can easily digest acorns, while the red squirrel cannot. Also, they carry a squirrel pox that is frequently fatal...