Eradication of Grey Squirrel from inappropriate areas of Europe

Distribution of the native British Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulagris L.Kerr) is now largely confined to Scotland and Ireland, although isolated populations persist in Southern England, in Wales just a few hundred remain and in Northern England it is found only where Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are not yet established. Despite efforts to protect it the Red squirrel is already outnumbered 66:1 by the Grey and may become extinct on mainland Britain in a few years – the current population is estimated at just 160,000. Within a few years of the arrival of the grey squirrel in the vicinity the smaller red squirrel disappears. This is due to a number of factors including competition for food, theft of food caches and disease. Only drastic measures will enable its survival on the British mainland and prevent its elimination in Europe.

The grey squirrel is the principle threat to the survival of the red squirrel in Britain. It has already: Driven out the native red squirrel from all but a few last outpost of the mainland; caused irreparable damage to broadleaf trees such as beech, oak and sycamore; raided bird’s nests to prey on eggs and fledglings, damaged orchards and gardens and poses a threat to the great forests of northern Italy, France and Switzerland. The grey squirrel was introduced to Britain from America and has no natural predators. It has successfully adapted to lowland conditions, is omnivorous, breeds strongly and is equally at home in urban parks and countryside.

Restore feel it is desirable that the red squirrel should be restored to British woods, that woodland song-birds and other wildlife should be protected and that our native trees should be saved from ruin. We help fund the European Squirrel Initiative (ESI) to pursue the creation of a common policy for the British Isles and the rest of Mainland Europe based on dealing with the grey squirrel as an alien species. This policy aims to contain the spread of the grey squirrel, and revitalise research programs into workable and acceptable removal methods and ways to assist re-establishment of the red squirrel.

Restore also looks to fund ESI’s efforts to work closely with national and EU authorities to develop coherent research policies for the whole of Europe and has helped finance a post-doctoral research assistant and the establishment of a web site for the Red Squirrel Trust. Further funding in 2006, 2007 and 2008 has gone towards the design of a research programme to develop and test Immuno-Contraception,the most effective method of controlling the grey squirrel population.

Green Belt protection – South West

On a number of occasions since 2002 Restore Our Planet funded campaigns designed to protect the countryside in the south west including the ongoing campaign fighting against the expansion of Bristol Airport.

Protecting vulnerable rural areas from excessive road development

CPRE work to ensure that the environmental impacts of potential road schemes receive due consideration in the planning process.

To this end Restore Our Planet financed a review of the Government’s ‘London to South West and South West Multi Modal Study’ (SWARMMS), which included a proposal to dual the A303/A30 corridor through many environmentally sensitive areas including the Blackdown Hills. Anyone motoring to the south west will be able to see the results of this campaign.

It was further specified that the research Restore Our Planet commissioned would be made openly available for use, in future reviews of road building schemes across the country.

Research causes of decline in woodland birds

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has initiated a programme to research the decline of UK woodland birds. Volunteers are used at a large number of sites, however identification of woodland species is one of the most difficult aspects of ornithological fieldwork.Dense vegetation means that birds must often be identified by songs or call alone.

To this end Restore Our Planet has supported the BTO’s production of a CD containing the voices of all target species and those they are likely to be confused with. Volunteers will be armed with these in order to help them in the tricky identification process.