Feasibility study published on the possible reintroduction of pine martens into the Forest of Dean in the west of England

June 20th, 2018

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, The Vincent Wildlife Trust, and the Forestry Commission have published a report on the feasibility of reintroducing pine martens into the Forest of Dean in the county of Gloucestershire in the west of England. The Forest of Dean is ~110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and has a history of extensive tree damage caused by grey squirrels. There is mounting evidence from Scotland and Ireland that pine martens have a negative effect on populations of grey squirrels, and if a release was to go ahead, pine martens could reduce the levels of damage caused by grey squirrels. In addition to the reasons and feasibility of reintroducing pine martens, the report covers environmental, social and economic impacts as well as the views of the local community and other stakeholders.

The Super Squirrels

June 20th, 2018

The Super Squirrels is a BBC TV Natural World documentary programme first shown on 19th June 2018 and currently can be viewed on BBC iPlayer until 18th July. It covers why squirrels (tree squirrels, flying squirrels, ground squirrels) are such a widespread and successful group of mammals. The programme includes items on squirrel caching behaviour and their speed, agility and problem solving abilities, and includes  a section on an orphaned baby red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) being hand reared and released back into the wild in Scotland.

International Squirrel Colloquium 2018, June 4th – June 8th

May 24th, 2018

A reminder that the 8th International Colloquium on Squirrels, will take place soon, from June 4th to June 8th 2018 in NUI Galway on the west Coast of Ireland. A draft programme with details of keynote speakers and all oral presentations is now available.

Red Squirrels In my Garden

May 24th, 2018

A new book written by Craig Shuttleworth and Liz Halliwell called Red Squirrels In My Garden and published by the European Squirrel Initiative is now available as an e-book PDF and can be downloaded here. Building on their wide experience of studying red squirrels, and particularly in recent years on the Isle of Anglesey and more widely in Wales, the authors describe the biology and natural history of red squirrels. They also offer many practical tips to interested readers on how to see them, distinguish them from grey squirrels, feed them and get involved in red squirrel conservation.

Reintroducing pine martens to help conserve native red squirrels in Britain and Ireland

May 22nd, 2018

A recent article by Iloma Amos in The Scotsman discusses how releasing pine martens can help keep numbers of alien grey squirrels down, which in turn allows native red squirrels to prosper.

Whole-genome data from tree squirrel species required

May 17th, 2018

Can you help? Nancy Moncrief from the Virginia Museum of Natural History, USA carries out research on the morphology and genetics of North American Sciurus tree squirrels. Nancy is currently looking at a whole-genome study on Sciurus carolinensis and S. niger and is seeking data from a third tree squirrel species. but there is nothing on Genbank. So, if you are or know of someone who is doing such work, then Nancy would be pleased to hear from you – contact details can be found on her web page (www.vmnh.net/nancy-moncrief).

More evidence that the spread of pine martens may help red squirrels in Britain

March 7th, 2018

A recent paper by Emma Sheehy and colleagues (Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2018) has provided empirical evidence that, as pine martens extend their range in the north of Britain, alien grey squirrel numbers fall. In contrast, native red squirrel populations are not affected and can recover from the competitive effects of grey squirrels. This work supports the earlier studies carried out in Ireland by Emma Sheehy and shows the benefits of pine martens, not only to red squirrels, but also to reducing the economic costs of damage to trees carried out by grey squirrels. (The Guardian, The Scotsman, Mail Online, The Times, BBC News).

Are alien grey squirrels cleverer than native red squirrels in Britain?

February 21st, 2018

A recent paper published in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour by Pizza Chow and colleagues has demonstrated that alien grey squirrels are slightly better than native red squirrels at solving certain problems involving the removal of hazelnuts from transparent plastic containers. The study has attracted a lot of attention in the media (International Business Times, UPI, Sky News, Channel 103, Mail Online, Metro), and there is the suggestion that the greater behavioural flexibility of grey squirrels may have contributed to their replacement of red squirrels throughout much of Britain. Whilst this is an intriguing thought, further comparative studies are needed of red and grey squirrels living in comparable habitats in Britain, and maybe also of grey squirrels from their native homeland in North America, to understand the relative problem-solving and competitive abilities of the two species.

Scotland’s red squirrels holding their own

February 20th, 2018

A 2017 survey by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) has indicated that red squirrels in Scotland have stabilised throughout much of the country, although there are regional differences. For example, there have been gains in the north-east around Aberdeen where grey squirrels have been extensively culled, and gains around Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park, but few red squirrels are now seen in Berwickshire in the south. The full report by Mahboobeh Shirkhorshidi and Mel Tonkin is available to download (also see The Scotsman, the Mail Online, Pressreader). SSRS was awarded a £2.4m National Lottery grant last year towards the conservation of red squirrels in Scotland.

“Daily Politics” – to control or not control grey squirrels in UK

February 1st, 2018

Recently the UK Government has stressed out the need to control grey squirrels to prevent bark-stripping damage to trees. The BBC Programme, Daily Politics,  debated the issue on 30/1/18 with Craig Shuttleworth from Bangor University, and Natalia Doran from the group Urban Squirrels (see a clip BBC News).