All-Ireland Citizen Science survey of red and grey squirrels and pine martens launched

March 14th, 2019

Members of the public are invited to take part in an All-Ireland Citizen Science survey of pine martens and red and grey squirrels. The survey, organised by researchers from the Ryan Institute in NUI Galway and the Ulster Wildlife and Vincent Wildlife Trust, aims to record sightings during 2019. There is evidence, notably from the Midlands, that the spread of pine martens has led to a decrease in the numbers of grey squirrels allowing red squirrels to return to their former haunts. The last survey of this kind was carried out in 2012 and it will be interesting to see if the changing pattern of distribution of the three species is continuing.  Further information and guidance on submitting records can be found on the National Biodiversity Data Centre website. It has also been widely reported in the Irish press: Green NewsIrish WorldMidlands 103, RTEUlster Wildlife.

Invasive Alien Species Order 2019

February 25th, 2019

From 29th March 2019, the EU Invasive Alien Species Order 2019 will take effect. As a result, Government Agencies will not issue licences that allow “invasive” species taken into captivity because they were injured or orphaned, such as grey squirrels or muntjac deer, to be looked after or released back into the wild. This will affect rescue centres and vets, and has angered many people who care for or take an interest in wildlife (The Mirror, The TimesIndependent – with respect to grey squirrel control, also see The Guardian, The Telegraph.)

Plans to reintroduce red squirrels into eastern England

December 28th, 2018

Shaun Morris, a farmer from East Yorkshire, England says he will breed animals in Holderness, an area in East Riding, and release them into woodland which he owns (BBC News).

Sign the petition to amend the 1967 Forestry Act to protect wildlife

December 3rd, 2018

Craig Shuttleworth, one of the country’s leading experts on red and grey squirrels and the driving force behind the return of red squirrels to the Isle of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales, is promoting a petition to amend the 1967 Forestry Act. The story is simple: under the Act, felling licenses cannot be refused to protect wildlife or conditions added to a licence to mitigate the effects of felling on wildlife (including red squirrels, common dormice, bats and great-crested newts). To add your signature, go to petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229243. Also see Nation.Cymru.

Camera trap set for red squirrels in Kielder Forest in the north of England captures images of a pine marten

August 17th, 2018

A camera trap set in Kielder Forest, part of a red squirrel monitoring survey in the area, has captured pictures of a pine marten. This provides evidence that pine martens are returning to northern England and bodes well for the red squirrel (Shropshire Star).

Evidence that squirrel bridges work

August 17th, 2018

Camera traps have shown that red squirrels are using a squirrel bridge built over the A896 in Wester Ross, Scotland. The bridge was installed by Trees for Life last June; evidence collected so far indicates the number of red squirrels killed on the roads in the area has declined. (The Scotsman, Trees for Life).

Red squirrel dies in abandoned plastic jar

July 29th, 2018

The problems of plastic pollution and their horrific effects on the environment have been highlighted in recent months, with many examples of animals from whales, dolphins, fish and turtles to deer and birds that have been directly affected by discarded plastic. Recently, a red squirrel was found by a busy road in Scotland (A939 near Candacraig) that had died after becoming entrapped in an abandoned plastic jar. BBC News, STV News, Mail OnlineThe Scottish Sun, Evening Express. This unfortunate occurrence clearly demonstrates that plants and animals everywhere are directly or indirectly affected by plastic pollution.

Red squirrels in Bangor, North Wales on the increase

July 23rd, 2018

Despite an outbreak of squirrelpox virus (SPQV) in 2017, red squirrels in the city of Bangor in North Wales have increased in 2018. SQPV is carried by grey squirrels and invariably fatal to red squirrels (The Bangor Aye). Red Squirrels Trust Wales has embarked on a project (Painting the Town Red) to rid the city and 1500 ha in the surrounding area of grey squirrels, so encouraging the return of the native squirrel. This is part of a major red squirrel conservation
initiative being carried out in North Wales. Following the successful eradication of grey squirrels and red squirrel conservation work carried out on the Isle of Anglesey since 1997, red squirrels were first noticed to have crossed from the island to the mainland and colonised several woods in the county of Gwynedd in 2008. Red Squirrels Trust Wales and Natural resources Wales have embarked on a programme of grey squirrels control in 165 sq km of Gywnedd as part of an EU Life14 funded project NAT/UK/000467 – Sciurious LIFE. Organisations in the North of Wales are now considering whether to release captive bred pine martens in Bangor and northern Gwynedd to help control grey squirrels (Bangor Aye).

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.