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.

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 (

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.