Valentine's Day surprise for red squirrels

Red squirrels have a very good sense of smell and can even smell food buried under snow

Red squirrels have a very good sense of smell and can even smell food buried under snow - Credit: Wildwood Escot

Playful red squirrels at the Wildwood Escot family attraction in East Devon have been enjoying an early Valentine’s Day surprise.
Keepers at the conservation charity near Ottery St Mary decided to concoct a mouth-watering and nutritious treat by inserting tasty morsels of hazelnuts into a greenwood willow heart for the squirrels to explore.
Wildwood Escot runs an important red squirrel conservation breeding programme as part of a national effort to increase numbers of the iconic animal, which is classified as endangered in Great Britain.
The red squirrel is more or less extinct in the south of England, with strongholds currently in northern England, Scotland and Ireland.

Getting into shape for Valentine's Day

Getting into shape for Valentine's Day - Credit: Wildwood Escot

The presence of the invasive American grey squirrel is a big threat to the reds. The abundant greys compete for food sources but they also carry a squirrel pox virus which is deadly for the reds.
The park at Escot is run by the Wildwood Trust charity.
As one of the leading British animal conservation charities in the UK, the Trust is dedicated to protecting, conserving and rewilding Britain’s wildlife. It has taken part in many ground-breaking conservation programmes to date, which include saving the water vole, bringing the extinct European beaver back to Britain and returning the hazel dormouse and red squirrel to areas where they have been made extinct.
But lockdown has dramatically reduced the charity’s revenue because parks like Escot have been forced to close and so it is now appealing for animal lovers to dig deep and make a contribution.
The Trust said: “Previous lockdowns have cost the Wildwood Trust around £500,000 in lost income. In periods where we have been allowed to open our doors we have welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to our park who have been able to enjoy a safe, Covid-secure visit.
“We got through the previous lockdowns thanks to the amazing support we received from our members and supporters and we know that we can do it again thanks to them.”
To make a donation to the Wildwood Trust charity and help it repair its finances, you can visit

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