Funding plea for one of the last places you can see red squirrels in the South West

  • Watch Claire Manning's report

One of the last remaining places in the South West where people can see red squirrels has made a plea for funding to restore the walkway in its enclosure.

The Wildwood Trust in Escot, near Ottery St Mary, gives visitors the chance to see the endangered animals in their natural habitat.

But the timber walkway which makes that possible now needs replacing - and the charity needs £9,000 to carry out the work.

General manager of Wildwood Escot George Hyde said: "Red squirrels disappeared from the Devon landscape over 50 years ago and this is the only place in Devon where you can see them in that natural habitat and the walkway allows that to happen.

"The Wildwood Trust has been breeding and releasing red squirrels into various controlled release programmes around the country for around 20 years now and this is the public facing aspect of that and people come here to experience the red squirrels and also learn about the conservation work that we do."

Keeper Becky Copeland with a red squirrel

The new platform will be made using modern construction methods to ensure it lasts longer than the current one, which was built around 10 years ago.

Keeper Becky Copland said the squirrels are very friendly but they discourage people from feeding them.

"The keepers will handfeed the squirrels, we do experience sessions where people can experience that and the money goes back to conservation - but on a general day to day we don't encourage the handfeeding of the squirrels because they do have a managed diet.

"We need to know what they are taking and if they know they can get food from their keepers, we can encourage them up.

"So if they need medication, or anything like that, we know we can encourage them up to us - if they came to everyone we wouldn't be able to do that."

In the UK, there are only around 120,000 red squirrels left, making the experience of seeing the animals up close at Wildwood a unique one.

Wildwood says allowing people to see these charismatic creatures will get people engaged with conservation.