Red squirrels in a woodland plantation near Hawes have proved to be a popular day trip for wildlife enthusiasts.
Latest figures show that, in a 23-week period between July and November, 600 people took advantage of a trail set up by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) leading from Hawes to a viewing point in the red squirrel reserve at Snaizeholme.
Matt Neale, the Authority’s Area Ranger for Upper Wensleydale, said: “Back in June, we installed a pedestrian counter on the squirrel trail to try to get an estimate of the number of visitors using it and we have been pleasantly surprised with the interest the trail and the viewing point have generated.
“In particular, the counter has shown that in one week in June alone, 50 walkers used the trail – and there were several other weeks when it recorded 40 visitors, which is fantastic news.”
Ian Court, the YDNPA’s Wildlife Conservation Officer, said: “It’s encouraging that so many people have taken advantage of the red squirrel trail and have enjoyed the walk through some of the National Park’s beautiful countryside – with the added pleasure of seeing these threatened creatures in their natural habitat.”
The red squirrel viewing area was created in woodland at Snaizeholme by landowner Hugh Kemp and his wife Jane ,with the help of the National Park staff and volunteers.
Hugh said: “We are astonished and delighted that we are getting so many people walking up here. I think it’s lovely that we are able to share this with the general public.”
Maps of the trail are available on the Authority’s website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/snaizeholme-red-squirrel-trail and at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes – the starting point for the 10-mile round trip.
The news of the popularity of the trail comes as the red squirrels get ready for another TV appearance on BBC1’s Countrytracks programme on November 29. They have already appeared on a number of other programmes including BBC News 24 and the One Show to name but a few.
Britain’s native red squirrel is under threat from grey squirrels that were originally introduced into England from North America in the late 1880s and are now widespread.
The main threat comes from the Squirrelpox virus the greys can carry. They are immune to it but it is fatal to the reds.