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Why red squirrels are thriving on the Isles of Scilly

A red squirrel on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. Credit: ITV News West Country

It has been five years since red squirrels were first introduced to the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly - and now the creatures are thriving.

The woodland animals are the only native squirrel species to Britain but numbers fell dramatically after grey squirrels were introduced in the 19th century.

The population mainly live at Tresco Abbey Gardens and the numbers have grown significantly - from 20 animals in 2013 to around 100 in 2019.

Mike Nelhams, who is the curator of the gardens, said: “We’re an island and so the problem with having grey squirrels is that they give the red squirrels a virus.

Mike Nelhams. Credit: ITV News West Country

Here, we have no grey squirrels. We started with about 20 animals and we released them and now five years on, we think we’ve got about 100.

The great thing is there’s a food source for them. Our sheltered trees are from California - the Monterey Pine, and they have these very large pine cones and the squirrels love the seeds from those pine cones.

– Mike Nelhams