New forest in Northumberland could benefit red squirrels

December 5th, 2017

A new 354 ha forest is to be planted at Doddington North Moor, in Northumberland in the north of England over the next two to three years. The Forestry Commission have approved plans for planting >600,000 trees,; these will include 146 ha of Sitka spruce, 72 ha of native broadleaves and 46 ha of Scots pine/native broadleaves. The site is within the Kyloe red squirrel reserve buffer zone, and the new forest will benefit the red squirrels in 15 to 20 years time when the conifers start to produce seed. (See Doddington North Afforestation ProjectThe Telegraph, The Independent, Confor, Smallholder).

Squirrel turns off Xmas lights in New Jersey

December 4th, 2017

Police in Sea Girt, New Jersey apprehended a squirrel on Saturday morning accused of vandalising the annual Christmas Lights display (IBTimes, India, UK PressFrom, MSN). Whilst this probably results from some cheeky wire nibbling by the grey squirrel; the picture of what looks suspiciously like a Eurasian red squirrel that accompanies some of these reports is rather worrying!

Red squirrels moved to NW Scotland doing well

November 13th, 2017

Over 80 red squirrels moved from various parts of Scotland to areas in the north west Highlands which did not have squirrels, are doing well and starting to spread into new areas (BBC News). The relocations were first carried out in spring 2016 and spring 2017. The project is led by Trees for Life.

Vikings, squirrels and leprosy

November 1st, 2017

Studies on a ~1000-year-old skull of a Medieval woman from Hoxne in the East of England by scientists from the University of Cambridge, showed signs that she had suffered from leprosy. Similar signs of the same strain of leprosy have been found in skeletal remains from Denmark and Sweden from the same period. It is believed that the leprosy bacteria could have been transmitted to England from Europe on red squirrel meat and skins, traded by the Vikings at this time. Leprosy is believed to have been common in the British Isles for hundreds of years. In the early parts of this century, leprosy was identified in red squirrels from Scotland, and from  the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island off the coast of southern England. The strain of leprosy is similar to that in the Hoxne woman. The original paper was published in the Journal of Microbiology and has since been widely reported (e.g. BBC News, Forbes, Hospital Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily Mail Online). Although thought to have died out over 200 years ago, cases of leprosy continue to be reported in the UK (The Telegraph).

*Avanzi, C., del-Pozo, J., Benjak, A., Stevenson, K., Simpson, V. R., Busso, P., . . . Meredith, A. L. (2016). Red squirrels in the British Isles are infected with leprosy bacilli. Science, 354(6313), 744-747. doi:10.1126/science.aah3783

**Inskip, S., Taylor, G. M., Anderson, S., & Stewart, G. (2017). Leprosy in pre-Norman Suffolk, UK: biomolecular and geochemical analysis of the woman from Hoxne. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 66(11), 1640-1649. doi:doi:10.1099/jmm.0.000606

Also:

Rawlcliffe, Carole (2016)Leprosy in Medieval England. 440 pages. Boydell & Brewer, UK.

New poxvirus found in red squirrels in Germany

August 9th, 2017

A poxvirus called BerSQPV has been isolated from red squirrels near Berlin in Germany. Several abandoned weak young red squirrels were given to a squirrel sanctuary in 2015 and 2016. Each one showed some signs similar to squirrelpox virus in red squirrels in Britain and Ireland including exudative and erosive-to-ulcerative dermatitis and scabs to the ears, nose, tail and in the genital/perianal region. The orthopoxvirus identified by Gundren Wibbelt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin and colleagues appears new and could not be assigned to any other known poxvirus group. Comparisons with a SQPV virus identified from a red squirrel in Spain in 2011 have yet to be made. It is possible that the disease has been established in the area for several years. Further details can be found here.

 

New book on grey squirrel ecology and management now available

January 23rd, 2017

The Grey Squirrel: Ecology & Management of an Invasive Species in Europe(2016) Eds. Craig Shuttleworth, Peter Lurz & John Gurnell. European Squirrel Initiative, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, UK. ISBN-10: 0954757645; ISBN-13: 978-0954757649. This book can be ordered from European Squirrel Initiative, 26 Rural Innovation Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG using this form.

From the cover

Love them or hate them, grey squirrels in Britain and Ireland evoke a wide range of reactions and emotions in people. Some consider these ‘alien’ invaders the usurper of our native red squirrel, a forest pest or a nuisance to gardeners but others love them and watch and feed them in woodlands, parks and gardens. To many people, grey squirrels are one of the few endearing wildlife encounters they may have. This volume presents a comprehensive and unique collection of peer-reviewed papers by scientists, experts and managers on critical aspects of grey squirrel biology, their parasites, diseases and management.

There are papers that provide an overview of grey squirrels in their native range, their reproduction, diet and ranging behaviour, morphometric differences between red and grey Love them or hate them, grey squirrels in Britain and Ireland evoke a wide range of reactions and emotions in people. Some consider these ‘alien’ invaders the usurper of our native red squirrel, a forest pest or a nuisance to gardeners but others love them and watch and feed them in woodlands, parks and gardens. To many people, grey squirrels are one of the few endearing wildlife encounters they may have. This volume presents a comprehensive and unique collection of peer-reviewed papers by scientists, experts and managers on critical aspects of grey squirrel biology, their parasites, diseases and management.

Other papers discuss pine martens and their potential impact on grey squirrel populations, grey squirrel economic damage, population management and the use of computer modelling research to help predict likely grey squirrel expansion and target limited resources. For the first time, wider ecosystem impacts of grey squirrels in different European habitats are also examined and knowledge gaps clearly identified. Despite a long presence of grey squirrels in Britain and Ireland, research funding has largely been focused on forest damage, red squirrel competition and disease, and many other impacts of grey squirrel ecology remain unexplored.

We hope that this volume will provide informative and interesting reading for managers, naturalists and researchers alike and anybody who wishes to know more about the biology, ecology and management of this highly successful species. The Editors.

Group of white squirrels observed in Edinburgh, Scotland

October 18th, 2016

There have been several recent reports in the media of a family of at least four white ‘grey’ squirrels living in the Barnton area of Edinburgh, Scotland. White morphs, which are not the same as alibinos with red eyes, result from a gene mutation that codes for pigmentation. They are rare in the UK. See: BBC News; The Scotsman; Edinburgh Evening News; Angle News; World News Metro

LIFE14 NAT/UK/000467 National red squirrel project launched

June 16th, 2016

An EU funded and National Lottery Sciurus Life project is launched that will enable local communities across the north of England and Wales to become involved in conserving the red squirrel. The Sciurius Life project aims are to:

  • Develop mechanisms to prevent the unintentional introduction of grey squirrels to currently uncolonised woodland landscapes;
  • Develop early warning/rapid response mechanisms to ensure the island of Anglesey in North Wales is not recolonised;
  • Develop rapid response mechanisms to mitigate the impacts of grey squirrels in urban woodlands with high biodiversity and tourism value;
  • Develop early warning systems to detect grey squirrels in sparsely populated rural landscapes;
  • Develop more efficient strategic mechanisms to evolve community-based grey squirrel management;
  • Quantify the financial and community-based resources needed to achieve regional eradication;
  • Share knowledge gained across the EU;
  • Use knowledge exchange and trust building processes to aid the development of a broader invasive alien species management;
  • Test the impact of measures to increase public awareness and community capacity associated with grey squirrel management;
  • Inform the development of a long-term management framework for grey squirrels in the UK.

The project will run until December 2019. Further information and a full list of partners can be found at: SciuriousLIFE and Red Squirrels Trust Wales.

Studies on leoprosy in red squirrels to start on Bownsea Island in Poole Harbour

May 9th, 2016

Several cases of a strain of leprosy bacteria were found in red squirrels in Scotland in 2014 and it may have been present in squirrel populations for a long time. Leprosy has also been identified in squirrels from the Isle of Wight, and Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour off the south coast of England. Brownsea Island is owned by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust and holds about 200 red squirrels. Studies on the island to get a better understanding of the disease and how to manage it are about to start under the direction  of Professor Anna Meredith of the University of Edinburgh. Although there is “negligible risk” to the public from the disease, visitors to the island are advised not to touch any wild animals and birds and maintain good hygiene practices such as hand washing. (BBC News, BT, ITV, Independent, The Guardian).

Isle of Man – consults the public on whether to introduce red squirrels

March 31st, 2016

The Manx Government is running a public consultation until 27 April 2016 on whether red squirrels should be released onto the island. Red squirrels have never been native to the island and if the decision to release is ‘yes’, then a licence under the Wildlife Act 1990 would be required.  Details can be found on the Official Isle of Man Government website. Views differ as to whether it would be a good idea or not – see BBC News 1, BBC News 2, Rosie Bowman Wildlife Article, IOM Today, The Countryside Restoration Trust.