Drive to boost red squirrel numbers in Denbighshire

image copyrightReuters
image captionNest boxes and feeders have been placed in the forest to help squirrels adjust

A group of red squirrels has been released into the wild in a bid to boost their dwindling population.

There are currently fewer than 50 red squirrels in Clocaenog Forest in Ruthin, Denbighshire.

Officials hope seven new animals, released into the forest as part of a breeding programme, will help to boost numbers.

The woodland area, which had 400 red squirrels in 1998, has had a steady decline in the rodent's population.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) conservation manager Rhys Jenkins said: "Red squirrels are an important part of our environment, heritage and culture. We have a duty to protect them for future generations."

Red squirrels are native to the UK, but their numbers have declined since the introduction of their grey cousins from North America.

Grey squirrels carry a deadly pox virus and out-compete the native reds for food.

NRW said it had worked closely with the a number of conservation groups and zoos which supplied some of the squirrels.

image copyrightNatural Resources Wales
image captionA team of volunteers built enclosures for the squirrels prior to their release

The captive-bred squirrels were initially housed in two enclosures in the 15,000 acre forest to try and help them get used to their surroundings.

After four weeks, the enclosures were opened and the squirrels were given access to the forest, where a number of nest boxes and feeders have been placed.

The work contributes to the UK-wide collaboration Red Squirrels United (RSU).

Mr Jenkins added: "The squirrels will be monitored closely to track their progress, and hopefully we will be able to release even more of them in the future."

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