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.

The Caledonian Forest Wildlife Project in Scotland set to help red squirrels

August 28th, 2015

A new Caledonian Forest Wildlife Project in Scotland involving Trees for Life and the Highland Foundation for Wildlife plans to translocate red squirrels from thriving populations in Moray and Inverness to 10 new locations – these sites still to be confirmed. The Project will be funded by a grant of £61,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (see BBC News). Elsewhere in Scotland (e.g. Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, and the north-east of Scotland), numbers of red squirrels are said to be increasing (see The Scotsman), but the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Project (also see SNH website) indicate that conservation work will be needed for many years to secure the future of the iconic species in Scotland.

New book on red squirrel conservation published

June 22nd, 2015

A new book on the ecology, conservation and management of red squirrels has recently been published by the European Squirrel Initiative: Shuttleworth, C., Lurz, P., & Hayward, M. (2015) Red Squirrels: Ecology, Conservation & Management in Europe, 328 pp. European Squirrel Initiative, Woodbridge, Suffolk UK. Full details of the contents of the book can be found on the Publications page. Requests for copies of the book should be sent to ESI.

The squirrel that kills and eats deer

May 14th, 2015

A recent article in The Washington Post describes a species of ground squirrel in Borneo that jumps on unsuspecting muntjac deer and rips open its jugular vein. After the deer has bled out, the squirrel apparently feeds on its heart, stomach and liver, but not the flesh. The story concerns the antics of the tufted ground squirrel (Reithrosciurus macrotis) and is based on a paper entitled Tall tales of a tropical squirrel by Emily Meijaard, Rona Dennis &  Erik Meijaard, published in Taprobanica: The Journal of Asian Biodiversity. In addition to its rumoured carnivorous habits and other squirrels that are said to actively hunt birds and animals, the authors consider the affinity of the tufted ground squirrel and the possible functions of its very large, bushy tail.

Fermate lo scoiattolo grigio”, Francia e Svizzera contro l’Italia

February 9th, 2015

The Italian newspaper La Zampa – La Stampa (Turin) have published an interesting article saying that both France and Switzerland have warned Italy that there will be a diplomatic ‘war’ if they  find a single grey squirrel in their territory. Time will tell!