Student Rebecca Hvarregaard from Hansenberg College in Denmark recently spent some time out away from her work placement at Lake District Wildlife Park to take a chance to learn about Cumbrian wildlife and Red Squirrel conservation with Fran Foster, our local North Lakes Red Squirrel Ranger.
Rebecca’s four year long course includes about nutrition, enclosure design, health, safety and hygiene, restraint and transport of animals, conservation, disease and the husbandry needs of different types of animal.
However, Rebecca has long held a passion for wildlife conservation in the field and is increasing her knowledge of effective management of wild flora and fauna both in Denmark and the UK, which is increasingly coming under pressure as a result of human activity. Rebecca has turned to Fran, NLRSqR to gain hands-on experience in the techniques of collecting, analysing, and interpreting data for the conservation and management of our wildlife and natural resources.
Student Rebecca explained “Most people probably associate the
Danish squirrel with red but actually the black squirrel is the one indigenous to Denmark. The red squirrel is planted and what one may well call an alien species. Maybe “species” is not quite right because we are talking about one and the same species but different “races”. They mate freely amongst themselves and since the red squirrel is genetically dominant, the black squirrel will probably disappear completely from Denmark in time. Just in Dyreborg Skov it has turn
ed out that the black squirrel is genetically pure and, from here black squirrels have been caught in order to be planted on Langeland as part of a big project. For many years Langeland has been an area with no squirrels. It might now become the black squirrel’s refuge so we secure a pure population of the indigenous Danish squirrel.”
Rebecca accompanied Fran to learn how she carries out grey squirrel control in woodlands throughout the region, using a number of humane techniques, records geographical and ecological information and undertakes other Ranger duties such as maintaining and expanding collaborative approaches to red squirrel conservation and support volunteers in running a trap loan scheme.
“I love animals and have always had a passion for wildlife but squirrels in particular fascinate me, not least because they are such an iconic native species. Everyone in Europe has heard of the squirrel – they represent and encapsulate a lot of our history and the fact that they are endangered has led many people recently to take a greater interest in the species”. Says Rebecca
Fran remarked “I had a fantastic time with Rebecca – she is so keen and enthusiastic. She seemed to particularly relish finding evidence of red squirrels right here on the Armathwaite Hall Estate, like when she found these chewed cones! Although we also came across this feeder badly chewed by grey squirrels, and Rebecca noticed the maize had been chewed, so we set a trap and were able to quickly and successfully remove the culprit.”
Missing her native Denmark, Rebecca was delighted to explore the Cumbrian countryside with Fran, an experienced naturalist, and highlights included spotting red squirrels up close and personal in Ireby, witnessing Bega the osprey’s first teetering flights over Bassenthwaite and watching a stoat with prey in its mouth in Setmurthy.
Hansenberg College’s veterinary and zookeeper training programs are on an old farm in the countryside “In the middle of nowhere,” said Rebbeca, “which suits most of us students just fine; although Cumbria is an equally wonderful place with such varying habitats”.
Rebecca will be continuing her placement here at the wildlife park until December, when she qualifies as a Zoo Keeper.