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Red squirrels of Clocaenog Forest - Wales' biggest colony

Red squirrel
The red squirrel is only to be found in a few conifer plantations

By Alys Lewis
Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire, is home to Wales' biggest colony of red squirrels so why will you be lucky to spot one?

While the grey squirrel is a familiar sight in our towns and countryside, the red squirrel has become increasingly rare, its numbers reduced by competition from its rival.

However, one place you may stand a slight chance of spotting a red squirrel is Clocaenog Forest in Denbighshire, as the site is thought to have the biggest red squirrel population in Wales.

But your chances of seeing one are slim as the creature is shy and spends most of its time high in the forest canopy, explains Iolo Lloyd, conservation and heritage manager with Forestry Commission Wales.

Red squirrel web links

"They spend 80% of their time in the tree canopy where they feed on conifer cone seeds," he says. "Grey squirrels are foraging animals so are more likely to be seen on the ground."

Iolo says red squirrels have been out-competed by greys - twice their size - in their natural habitat for the last 50-80 years but they seem to have found a niche in conifer forests.

"This why we're trying to maintain a diverse age of cone-bearing conifers at Clocaenog to ensure they always have a food supply," he said.

Iolo welcomed the announcement in February 2010 of a conservation plan to save red squirrels from extinction in Wales.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson recognised Clocaenog Forest, along with Anglesey and forests around the Tywi valley in mid Wales, as focal sites for red squirrels.

Have you seen one of Colcaenog's red squirrels?

Margaret Hainge-Lloyd, Bodelwyddan: "I have not been to Clocaenog for some years now. But I, with my brother and sisters, grew up at our family farm, Y Fferm, near Bontuchel, Ruthin, which is only a few miles up the road from Clocaenog. The big wood at the Fferm when we were children was full of red squirrels and my sister Jean and I often saw them. I have not been up to the big woods for a few years now but will make an effort to do so next time I go there to see just in case they might be still there."

Dave, Clawddnewydd, near Ruthin: "I have seen a red squirrel, I am convinced, but it was high up and smaller than you would expect - and not a grey, that's for sure. I walk those woods every morning for health reasons. I remember talking to a forester a few years ago and she was monitoring the red squirrel population and said it was very hard to spot them."

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