Red squirrel survey




The Forestry Commission has carried out the first ever full survey of the Red Squirrels at reserves in Cumbria.

Over 400 red squirrels were counted in the survey

Over 400 red squirrels were counted in the survey

A total of 416 red squirrels were recorded during a 12-week period between May and August 2010, although individual squirrels could have been caught more than once.

75 traps were located within the reserves at Whinlatter Forest, Dodd Wood, Wythop and Setmurthy near Keswick.

One trap was placed per hectare within the reserve and recordings were made twice a day for two weeks.

The red squirrels were released and the traps moved to different locations until around 600 hectares of Forestry Commission land in the reserve had been surveyed.

Red squirrel hotspots

The survey results provide a reference for future surveys and help provide an indication of population trends.

Wildlife rangers will use the collected data to manage the reserve and to help the red squirrels continue to survive in Cumbria.

This is the first time that a methodical approach has been used for the deployment of the traps.
Matthew Easton, Forestry Commission wildlife ranger

Matthew Easton, Forestry Commission wildlife ranger, said: “We have trapped red squirrels in the past, mainly because we were responding to sightings of grey squirrels within the reserve, which gave us a certain indication of population. However, this is the first time that a methodical approach has been used for the deployment of the traps.

This method will provide us with far better results, and it can be replicated in future years to help give us an indication as to how the red squirrels are faring within the Whinlatter reserve.”

Red Squirrels get help from coniferous forests

Forest management techniques currently used to help the red squirrels survive, include maintaining a level of mature conifers within Whinlatter Forest and the neighbouring woodland.

Evidence suggests that reds fare better against competition from the larger grey squirrels in a coniferous environment, compared with broadleaf trees.

Grey squirrels removed

Any grey squirrels that were found in the traps, were removed from the area.

One result from this year’s trapping, giving cause for hope, is that the numbers of grey squirrels caught in the reserve this year are lower than last.

This indicates there are fewer grey squirrels moving into the north Cumbrian reserve.

Grey squirrels, which were introduced into the UK from North America, are a threat to red squirrels because they compete more effectively for food and they are also carriers of the deadly Squirrel Pox. Grey squirrels are resistant to Squirrel Pox, but they can pass it on to reds, which are not resistant.

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