It’s been quite a while since the last issue of Red Squirrel News. Staff attention has been focused on the coordination of a management plan for the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Focal Site. There was no winter issue of Red Squirrel News this year, but that means there’s plenty of things red-squirrelly to cover in this spring issue!
Find out how the MWRSP is working with the forest industry in the Tywi area to help to retain and restore habitat for the benefit of red squirrels. Discover where some of the pine martens brought to Wales from Scotland by the Vincent Wildlife Trust have established territories. Find out about the new Red Squirrels United Project and how it is working to save red squirrels across the UK. Learn about new red squirrel sightings near to Llanddewi Brefi, in the west of the Focal Site, and how this might be an indication of the growing health of this key population. Read the latest info from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) on their Trap Loan Scheme and how they are working with MWRSP to create a ‘buffer to the buffer’ for the Red Squirrel Focal Site, enabling further protection for our red squirrels from grey squirrels. Read more>>
In 2015, the MADRS grey control team removed over 1100 greys from our patch and another 720 were removed in 2016. If a third of these were female and you think about each having 2 breeds with 3-4 young per season….well, it makes for a heck of a lot of greys damaging trees, predating on bird eggs and fledgelings and obviously spreading the killer squirrel pox virus to our native reds. As always, it is this essential work that is the greatest contributing factor to helping to safeguard our endangered native reds. We keep stressing that this is not a side of red conservation that is taken lightly. It is the necessary to ensure the survival of the reds. There is much talk of a grey squirrel infertility drug being researched but the fact is this is going to be a great many years away. Until that time, the concerted effort of our grey control team and everyone who reports sightings and people who monitor a trap in their garden, is the only saviour for the red squirrel. Read more>>
If you’re new to red squirrels, all the various organisations involved in red squirrel conservation must seem baffling – even those of us who’ve been involved for many years find it hard to keep up with developments. The UK Squirrel Accord is the most recent organisation at the national, policy-making level and we’re pleased to report here that the voluntary groups are in the process of gaining recognition in that forum. Regionally, the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) project will still be processing our cull and sightings data and continuing their monitoring programme, but their capacity to provide practical conservation help is now very much reduced owing to a lack of funding. Red Squirrels United is the new UK-wide red squirrel project that you might hear about in the media, but unfortunately for us the project doesn’t specifically include Cumbria. It’s therefore more important than ever for us to work closely with our fellow voluntary groups through our membership of Northern Red Squirrels Cumbria in order to keep Cumbria’s red squirrels high on the conservation agenda and in the public eye. Read more>>
Work is being stepped up to develop an oral contraceptive specifically for controlling grey squirrels, which are such a threat to our red squirrels. A report in The Independent summarises the next phase of work by the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency to develop the vaccine and design grey-only traps. More details here: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/prince-charles-squirrels-nutella-sterilise-plans-backs-grey-red-a7597481.html . The same story is covered in The Times: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prince-of-wales-backs-mass-sterilisation-of-grey-squirrels-ncgstkh28?shareToken=c3be20f11407765b02ac3e18fed007f3
Northern Red Squirrels welcomes the recent call for a national army of volunteers to save our red squirrels. More details here: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2017/02/24/vital-volunteers-needed-save-our-last-red-squirrel
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for Northern Red Squirrels, check the NRS Groups section above to see if there is a group near you.
Maybelle is free again
It gives us great pleasure to anounce the safe release of Maybelle the red squirrel back into the wilds of Haweswater. Maybelle was rescued by Jerry & Sarah back in May after she was found wandering in the grounds of Haweswater Hotel. After plenty of TLC, the tiny red squirrel kitten was strong enough to fend for herself and quickly learned how to use a squirrel feeder and enjoyed cosy nights in her own nesting box. Read more>>
By the end of October the MADRS grey control team had passed the 600 mark of grey squirrels removed from our patch. It is this essential work that is the greatest contributing factor to helping to safeguard our endangered native reds. However, without the support of the public who report sightings and also from private households who monitor traps in their gardens, we would not be able to achieve these results. As always it is the ‘many a mickle meks a muckle’ approach that collectively produces these outstanding results. (‘Many a small makes a big’ for those who are struggling with my grannies old saying). Read more>>
Over the last year or so, we have noticed that some public sector officials seem to be concerned about the public perception issue of grey squirrel control and worried about a backlash. You would think that we are beyond such worries, but this could be due to rotation or retirement of staff and new staff coming into post and to counteract any concerns we decided to run our public perception survey after a 5 year holiday.
I am delighted to report that awareness about the grey squirrel problem remains at broadly the same high level as before and support for grey squirrel control is still high. The full results are published later in the magazine… Read more>>
The unexpectedly low number of greys this year is very welcome, but presents us with our next challenge which is to keep it that way—by stopping any remaining greys from breeding back to their previous levels.
Adrian Vass, Director of the UK Squirrel Accord (UKSA), spoke at our AGM about a pilot scheme in the National Forest to put woodland owners in touch with volunteer shooters. In this issue, the article by Steve Bloomfield describes the scheme in more detail. If there’s sufficient interest in the scheme from local landowners we can take this further, so please get in touch to let me know your views. Read more>>
Leprosy on a red squirrel’s ear
Leprosy in red squirrels is a recent discovery, not because it is a new disease but because nobody had picked up on it before. As it is widespread, from Scotland to the Isle of Wight and Brownsea, it’s likely it has been around in red squirrel populations for centuries. When I started working with red squirrels 25 years ago I noticed some had ‘warty ears’ but thought no more of it as they bred and seemed well in other respects. It takes a long time for the disease to progress so most animals would die of something else before the leprosy really took hold. Read more>>