Squirrels: Why the greys remain a threat

SIR, — I was very disappointed that you printed the letter from Neil Macmillan, aka Prof Acorn, ('Herald', February 28), not only because he does not even reside in the Borough, but also because he is giving incorrect and misleading information about red and greys squirrels.

For once and for all, I'd like to clarify some of the issues regarding the reason why grey squirrels are a threat to reds.

They carry squirrel pox virus. It is harmless to the grey, but deadly for the red and can wipe out whole populations of reds within weeks. We have had numerous outbreaks in Northumberland within the past fews months including Wallington, Belsay, Bellingham, Bolam Lake and more recently suspected outbreaks at Gosforth Park and Swarland.

They compete for habitat and food. They are much larger than our smaller native red squirrel and therefore consume much more food, depleting the availability of natural food for the reds and thus causing increased starvation among red populations. Lack of food also can cause ceasation of breeding in female red squirrels.

They have systematically taken over all red squirrel habitats in the South and Midland regions of mainland UK and are now threatening the last strongholds of the red squirrel in England — Northumberland and Cumbria

Without intervention and control of grey squirrels our native red squirrels in Cumbria would have already been extinct

Without continued control red squirrels in Northumberland and Cumbria could be extinct in a few years

Reds and Greys cannot cohabit. Without grey control reds WILL disappear from an area once there is an influx of grey squirrels within approximately two years or much less if the pox virus is presented.

The only effective way to save our native red squirrels is through grey control. We are still lucky enough to have a choice in Northumberland.

Recently, volunteer groups across the North have united under an umbrella group, Northern Red Squirrels. Volunteer action is the key to the continued existence of our red squirrels. We aim to encourage coordinated volunteer action and enable openness and collaboration amongst volunteers and also the funded groups.

Northern Red Squirrels already has nearly 40 voluntary member groups involved across the North, and are hoping to increase this number to 'close all the gaps' to ensure effective action.

Northern Red Squirrels is committed to red conservation and aims to do this through; raising awareness of our red squirrels; education: effective, coordinated grey control; highlighting and tackling issues such as habitat loss, effective habitat management and road kill.

If you want to get involved and become part of Northern Red Squirrels please visit our website, email: contact@northernredsquirrels.co.uk or telephone: 07846 900924. Help us to make a difference.


Ponteland Red Squirrels