Squirrels’ lives shorten if you get close as Brits urged to keep 50 metres away

Squirrels will go nuts if you get too close – and it could shorten their lives.

People should keep at least 50m – the height of Nelson’s Column – from the creatures to avoid disturbing or harming them.

A study into the impact of people getting too close to animals found that the size of the beast determined how far away you should be.

"These findings really show the sphere of influence that the presence of humans can have on all the different types of wildlife," said study lead author Jeremy Dertien.

Scientists warn that getting any closer can be uncomfortable for the creatures and can even lead to lower survival and reproduction rates.

For small mammals like squirrels, hares and rabbits, the study advised to stay 50m away. And for large animals like elk and red deer, between 500m and 1,000m is recommended.

Jeremy, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, added: "People see these distances… then they think to themselves, 'well, I can get a lot closer to a squirrel or deer than that'. But often those animals are already habituated in some way to human presence."

Meanwhile, according to the New Forest National Park website, feeding ponies is illegal.

"Some ponies and donkeys develop an unhealthy craving for human food and become aggressive with people who, quite rightly, try to keep their picnics to themselves.

"The animals also tend to gather near roads, looking for people with food, and this makes them more vulnerable to traffic accidents.

"Human food also gives the ponies colic (bad stomach ache) which is very painful and can be deadly."

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