This Royal Is Nuts About Red Squirrels
Prince Charles works to protect the at-risk species, and also gives them names, nuts, and free reign of his homes.
Squirrels aren’t for everyone. Like rats and pigeons, the tailed creatures have been maligned as a scourge on society. They’re seen as dirty pests, best known for antagonizing dogs, wreaking havoc on gardens, and instigating power outages.
“For the longest time, [they’ve] been called tree rats,” Decan Andersen, the owner of Tintin, an Instagram-famous red squirrel, told OK Whatever. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. They are elegant, majestic little creatures that deserve our love and respect.”
Red squirrels in particular deserve both those things because their numbers are being decimated by an influx of gray squirrels. The problem is most rampant in Europe where non-native grays were introduced from North American in the 19th century. Larger and more competitive, gray squirrels often out-compete red squirrels for resources and also carry squirrelpox, a virus that does not harm them but is deadly to their crimson kin. According to some reports, the red squirrel population in Europe has dropped from 3.5 million to 250,000 in the last 70 years alone.
Fortunately, they have found a champion in the next heir to the British throne. For years, Prince Charles has shown a fondness for red squirrels. He has been known to support and partake in conservancy efforts that involve trapping and vaccinating the critters, and he’s penned magazine articles about their dwindling populations.
Prince Charles also seems to just really like squirrels in general. He’s long had an open-door policy with “the incredibly special creatures,” allowing them to freely wander through his royal residences.
“They come into the house at Birkhall and we get them chasing each other round and round inside. If I sit there quietly, they will do so around me,” the Prince of Wales recently wrote in an editorial for the U.K. magazine Country Life, People reports.
At his London residence, Clarence House, he has kept a bucket of nuts near the front door for his furry friends to feed from. “They’ve got teeth like nothing on Earth,” he mused in 2015 while watching one munch on a morsel plucked from the bucket.
And, just like your kooky neighbor who carries treats in his pockets to give to all the dogs he sees on his walks, so too does Prince Charles — just for squirrels.
“Sometimes, when I leave my jackets on a chair with nuts in the pockets, I see them with their tails sticking out as they hunt for nuts,” he wrote.
Even his son can vouch that he’s nuts for the animals.
“He is completely infatuated by the red squirrels that live around the estate in Scotland — to the extent that he’s given them names and is allowing them into the house,” Prince William told Country Life.
But though there’s some humor to his father’s red squirrel obsession, William can’t help but admire Charles’ interest in them.
“His passion for the environment and the natural world is something I want to repeat in the way I raise George, Charlotte, and Louis,” the Royal said.
Andersen is also impressed with Charles’ public support for and interest in the creatures.
“Red squirrels are endangered and in need of our help, and as a celebrity, you have a wide audience to spread awareness that to.”
“More still has to be done,” he admitted, but any little bit — especially recognition from a member of the Royal family — can help.