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!

To cull or not to cull grey squirrels!

November 29th, 2014

The debate about whether grey squirrels should be controlled has recently come into focus again on the BBC’s Breakfast TV programme. Grey squirrels are already controlled to minimise damage to trees and for red squirrel conservation but apparently  the UK Government is considering whether more needs to be done. The arguments for and against are emotive and do not appear to have changed over the years.

New disease threat to red squirrels in Scotland

August 28th, 2014

A new disease threat has recently been identified in red squirrels from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland (BBC Scotland). Six animals have been found infected with a bacteria similar to Mycobacterium lepromatosis which causes leprosy. Signs of the disease are swollen nose, eyelids, ears and feet. Prof Anna Meredith from the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh and colleagues are trying to find out more about this little understood, potentially fatal condition. Members of the public who find dead red squirrels in Scotland can send them to the Veterinary Pathology Unit, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh. Further details of where to send carcasses found in England and Wales as well as Scotland, and postage and packaging, can be found towards the bottom of this web page. Members of the public are advised to follow basic hygiene rules when handling dead animals.

UK Squirrel Initiative – Meeting 2nd May 2014

May 13th, 2014

Representatives from more than 50 parties interested in squirrels met at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland on 2nd May to discuss a new squirrel accord to conserve red squirrels. HRH Prince Charles attended during the afternoon. Speakers included The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,  Mr Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Mr Simon Jones, Head of Major Projects, Scottish Wildlife Trust who talked about Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, and Mr Crispin Thorn, Chair, Red Squirrels Northern England Project Management Group, who talked about Red Squirrels Northern England – Coordinating Red Squirrel Conservation. Controlling grey squirrels is a key action in the drive to conserve red squirrels and this has brought criticism from some quarters (see Chris Packham – Ecological cleansing and article by Ocsar Rickett in the Guardian).

Return of the red squirrel to Portugal

March 27th, 2014

Red squirrels became extinct in Portugal in the 16th century, probably as a result of hunting and deforestation. Now, recent news reports (Portuguese American Journal, The Portugal News Online) indicate that it is making a return. Red squirrels moved across from northwest Spain in the 1980s and sightings suggest it has now reached as far south as the River Tagus. Rita Gomes Rocha (University of Aveiro) is reported as saying, “The Red Squirrel in Portugal Project aims to understand the expansion of the red squirrel in the country, what factors influence that expansion and its behaviour patterns”.

The Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order of 1937 is to be abolished.

March 19th, 2014

On 18th March 2014, Oliver Heald, the Solicitor General, informed a government committee on deregulation: “The order requires occupiers to report the presence of grey squirrels on their land to facilitate the eradication of that species. However, it is no longer considered feasible to eradicate grey squirrels, so the requirement to report their presence on one’s land is no longer useful or observed” ((See TheyWorkForYou). The Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order of 1937 therefore is to be abolished. It is noteworthy that it does not appear that anyone has ever been prosecuted for failing to report grey  squirrels in their garden. Apparently, the Environment Minister (Owen Paterson) will maintain the power to order the destruction of grey squirrels in parts of the country where red squirrels are present. For reaction see: The JournalThe Telegraph, The Telegraph (Steven Swinford), The Telegraph (James Kirby), The Telegraph (Joe Shute).

New study on squirrelpox virus indicates transmission routes

February 25th, 2014

A study recently published in PLOS ONE (also see Publications Page) by a team of leading researchers led by Quercus, the biodiversity and conservation research centre at Queen’s University, Belfast, indicates that the virus could be spread from grey squirrel to grey squirrel or grey squirrel to red squirrel in various ways. The virus, which is invariably fatal to red squirrels but benign to grey squirrels, may be passed in urine, faeces or by ectoparasites such as fleas, mites and ticks. Moreover, the scientists found that the virus can survive outside the body, especially in warm, dry conditions in spring and summer. At the present time, keeping the two species apart to reduce encounter rates is the only real way of slowing or preventing the spread of the disease.