National award for Cumbrian family that hand-reared squirrel
Last updated at 15:45, Friday, 13 April 2012
A family most famous for hand-rearing an orphaned squirrel have been named national Red Squirrel Champions.
Sarah McNeil, partner Jerry Moss and 16-year-old son Hagen, have been given the award collectively by the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, for their work in protecting the endangered species.
The family shot to national prominence in April 2010 when they rescued Charles, a five-week old red squirrel named after the Prince of Wales, who is patron of the national Red Squirrel Survival Trust.
The tiny creature was kept in a woolly hat stuffed with pampas grass and leaves to recreate the warmth of his mother’s body and was fed milk by hand at the family home near Hackthorpe, Penrith.
Jerry, 44, is not only a long-serving member of the Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group, but is also red squirrel ranger at Center Parks, in Whinfell Forest.
Sarah supports her partner in his work and is a well-known photographer, as well as a hard-working volunteer raising funds for the protection of the red squirrel.
Hagen has shown a passion and devotion to the red squirrel from a young age – in 2006 he appeared on Countryfile talking about the orphaned squirrels his family helps rescue – and spends all his free time helping his dad.
Sarah, 48, said: “The organisers told us that as a family we are all doing bits together to protect the red squirrel, and they wanted to reward us collectively.
“We are very proud, both for us and for the Cumbrian volunteers as a whole. Everyone is doing their bit to help, however small, and it all makes a difference.”
It is particularly inspiring to see the work Hagen does, as many teenage boys would rather be inside.
His mum admitted: “He does like his Playstation and parties but we go into the woodlands as a family and he helps trap the greys and helps us raise awareness. Our life is very outdoor-focused.”
Sarah said that since the publicity surrounding Charles, they have received appreciation from Prince Charles himself for the awareness raised, and are now seen as ‘experts’ in the field of red squirrel protection.
“We are going on holiday to Suffolk,” she explained, “but will take the laptop with us as there is always someone needing advice.”
While awareness of the native red squirrel, and the danger of the American grey and the squirrel pox virus it carries, is growing, Sarah said the battle is continuous.
“A few days ago I found a red squirrel with squirrel pox,” she said.
“It was the worst case I have ever seen and Jerry had to put the animal out of its misery. It is not nice to hear, but it was suffering so badly.”
The National Red Squirrel Awards are being run by the Red Squirrel Survival Trust for the first time this year, and Cumbrian volunteers lead the way. Julie Bailey, 45, from near Armathwaite, was recognised as one of the Unsung Heroes of the red squirrel world.
The disabled mum-of-two is secretary of the Brampton Group, not only organising the members, but also liaising with local landowners and bringing together funding bids for the group.
She also volunteers with the Penrith and District group and the Northern Red Squirrels group and the Red Squirrels North East project.
A third Cumbrian stalwart, Jackie Foott from Sedburgh, took the Leading Light award, for the volunteer talking the message out into the community.
Her award was shared with Sally Hardy, from Ponteland, near Newcastle, as the pair jointly chair Northern Red Squirrels, an organisation created to unite volunteers and red squirrel conservation groups across the country, sharing news, ideas and best practice.
Each of the winners will receive a prize and certificate, presented by the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle.
First published at 14:11, Friday, 13 April 2012
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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