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Wednesday, 15 April, 1998, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Squirrels roped into road safety
Walking a tightrope to safety
The Isle of Wight has introduced a road safety measure to protect its most timid pedestrians - red squirrels.

Protected by a law which says the animals cannot be owned or killed, the squirrels' biggest enemy on the island is the car.

Cars kill dozens of squirrels a year on the island
Dozens die on the roads every year. Last year's death toll was at least 40.

Inspired by a television advertisement for lager shown several years ago, animal lovers came up with a novel yet seemingly foolproof way to avoid such tragedies taking place.

Take one 40ft rope and attach it from one side of the road to the other to act as a bridge for squirrels.

The rope should be high enough to clear any danger below and wide enough to accommodate the most clumsy claw.

Then place a handful of nuts on either side of the rope to encourage the furry pedestrians onto the rope.

Organisers devised the safety route after watching the advertisement for Bass Breweries, which shows a red squirrel completing a complicated aerial obstacle course with agility and speed to the tune of Mission Impossible.

The new measure was a gamble, but one which has been worth taking, according to Helen Butler of the Wight Squirrel Project. "It is the only way to get them across the road without getting killed, and it works. There was only one seen on the road about four or five days after it was put up," she said.

The red squirrel is very dear to the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight, becoming the island's official mascot last year.

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Watch the Isle of Wight's squirrels in action and the advertisement which inspired them
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