Return of Nutkin: Red squirrels’ comeback in UK

Jason Thomson in The Christian Science Monitor:

As I stand on the blue bridge, gateway to a subtropical garden on this island haven near southwestern England, I look to the side and see a small creature sitting astride a mound of hazelnuts. Its fur blazes a bright russet color, its tail fanned out like a sail. I glance up, and in the neighboring pine tree I see two or three more, racing up and down the trunk, pausing every so often to steal a glance at the feast below, waiting their turn. These are red squirrels, and to see them in the wild, let alone in such numbers, is a rare treat. The animals were once common throughout the United Kingdom, but the invasive gray squirrel has pushed them to the brink of extinction in all but a few strongholds.

…Red squirrels have been a part of Britain’s native fauna for thousands of years. They are emblematic of the British countryside, so much so that generations of schoolchildren have been raised on Beatrix Potter’s “tale of a tail” about a little red squirrel named Nutkin. By contrast, the first recorded introduction of North American gray squirrels into a British park occurred in the 1870s.

More here.