Red Squirrels

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Doing a bit of “bumping” of this thread, in view of recent visit to a (sort-of) "hotspot".

I, a British citizen and resident, have loved these islands' red squirrel lifelong, but been in the presence of same, on rather few occasions – having always lived in relatively southerly reaches of the island of Great Britain, pretty much monopolised by the invading American grey squirrel.

Have in the last couple of years, spent a few holidays on the Isle of Wight (just back from one such) – as mentioned in this thread, the last significant stronghold in southern England, of the red squirrel (the intervening 2 / 3 miles-wide strait, with no bridge or tunnel, having so far kept the “greys” out). Have fleetingly sighted members of the red variety on two of these recent I.O.W. holidays; but, my word, they tend not to be easy to encounter. Not because of drastic smallness of numbers: on the island, which measures about 25 by 15 miles, there are estimated to be some 3,000 red squirrels – mostly in the more-wooded northern half of the island.

They are, basically, shy and retiring creatures – their grey American cousins / rivals tend to be much bolder. Unless one is a skilled and dedicated naturalist, squirrel encounters on the island seem to be very much a matter of luck. There are reputedly, particularly good places for seeing them. One such is Parkhurst Forest, the island’s biggest single area of woodland, where there has been set up a “hide”, as for bird-watchers, but in this case, for observing squirrels (my brief sightings, as above, have been from this structure). There is also a small park in one of the island’s resort towns, where squirrels are reputedly semi-tame and will sometimes approach visitors in the hope of handouts; but I have had no luck there. Residents on the island, with whom I have spoken, have seen squirrels on quite numerous occasions; but they have the advantage of being there all the time...

I see a certain appropriateness in this subject being featured on the “Cryptozoology” forum: conclusion reached, that going in search of Isle of Wight red squirrels is likely to be a frustrating and unrewarding business, and the optimum approach is to stop trying, and leave it to rather rare chance – a parallel with North America’s best-known cryptid, some enthusiasts for which phenomenon are wont to say, “You don’t find Bigfoot; Bigfoot finds you.”
 

Fats_Tuesday

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Sep 5, 2001
Messages
524
Reaction score
18
Points
49
I remember seeing them around the woodland areas of Robin Hill Country Park, 3 years ago, whilst I was at Bestival; they were relatively bold there.

Don't forget the other remaining southern English stronghold for the reds, Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
I've seen Robin Hill recommended, but have not tried that venue. Think that on future I.O.W. visits, I'll stick to the principle of refraining from seeking the beasts -- "if I see any by chance, that's great; if not, not".

I should have mentioned Brownsea Island. Have been there, and seen red squirrels there. Would reckon Brownsea the place to go, if one wants a for-sure r.s. encounter: the island is so small, that it's akin to shooting fish in a barrel.
 

ramonmercado

CyberPunk
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
53,248
Reaction score
30,361
Points
314
Location
Eblana
In Ireland, red squirrels are still ok west of the Shannon. Greys seemingly can't swim so well and get squashed on the bridges. So Galway, May, Sligo, Roscommon would be good. West Donegal as well.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
I've read suggestions to the effect that more than once over the centuries, squirrels (red) have died out in Ireland, and been reintroduced by man. This feels a bit unlikely to me -- but few things are outright impossible. Confirmations / denials from anyone?

And as per ramonmercado's post, the geniuses who thought it a good idea to introduce grey squirrels to these islands, of course did their stuff in Ireland too -- according to one account, first instance of same was in 1911.
 

ramonmercado

CyberPunk
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
53,248
Reaction score
30,361
Points
314
Location
Eblana
Red squirrel revival: Numbers on the rise in the west
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ire ... 05579.html
SEÁN Mac CONNELL, Agriculture Correspondent

Mon, Jan 31, 2011

THE IRISH red squirrel is making a fightback against extinction from grey squirrels because Irish scientists have put a new twist on Oliver Cromwell’s old slogan and taken them out of “hell into Connacht”.

The native red squirrel has suffered a 20 per cent decline since the introduction of the North American grey squirrel 100 years ago and the more aggressive greys have colonised the east coast of Ireland pushing out the more timid Irish red.

While the grey squirrel has expanded its range from Derry to Wexford it has yet to make it across the Shannon and scientists have been catching red squirrels since 2006 and translocating them to areas in the west where they have become extinct.

A recent study by NUI Galway on the pilot translocation to Co Mayo and to Connemara suggested that the west may hold the key for the survival of the red squirrel in Ireland which is listed as “near threatened” in Ireland’s most recent Red Data List of Mammals.

The scientists said the project has proved a great success with evidence that the squirrels settled into their new surroundings and started breeding in a matter of months.

The squirrels were followed over three years using radio-tracking methods and hair tube surveys allowing researchers to keep track of the animals and also to monitor the two populations as they expanded and spread.

In the first project in 2005, red squirrels were relocated from Portumna to a site in Ballyclare, Connemara. The population at Derryclare has continued to increase since its 2005 translocation with three of the original 19 red squirrels still occupying the wood despite their advanced years.

Red squirrels were also taken to Bellek Wood near Ballina, Co Mayo, and this too has been very successful. The report, written by Catherine Waters and Dr Colin Lawton of NUI Galway, includes specific recommendations about the potential for future translocations.

“Translocations consistently fail if grey squirrels are present. Red squirrel translocation cannot be used in areas within the grey squirrel range, even where a grey squirrel eradication programme has been carried out. There is real potential, however, for remote woodlands in counties Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry to host new red squirrel populations,” it concluded.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Just back from a few days on the Isle of Wight (southern England’s “Red Squirrel Central”). This visit reinforced previous personal “take”, that re red squirrels on Wight – they being shy and retiring creatures – the “Bigfoot motto” is appropriate: “you don’t find them, they find you”.

I had the good luck to encounter (unsought) a red squirrel at one of the terminal stations of the island’s preserved steam railway, quite early in the morning and way before first-train-time; it trotted along the edge of the platform, hopped down to rail-level and crossed the two rail lines, thence through the wire fence and into the undergrowth, after that unseen.

Later in sojourn on the Island, went to Shanklin, where the (tourist-trap) wooded ravine of Shanklin Chine is inhabited by red squirrels. They sometimes move between the Chine, and the adjoining open-to-the-public Rylstone Gardens, where they allegedly sometimes approach people in the hope of handouts. Spent time in the Gardens – no joy. Proceeded into the Chine (admission fee required) – no joy. A bit of a “Catch-22” situation, in that the squirrels tend to be most active in the earliest hours of daylight, but the Chine does not open to the public until 1000; still, it would be boring and self-contradictory if things re wildlife, were guaranteed ! It strikes me that the IOW’s squirrels have got it just right, as regards intriguing and tantalising the punters – maybe they’re in league with the island’s tourist board...?
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
With my passion for the Isle of Wight and the British red squirrel -- the former being the biggest remaining stronghold in southern England, of the latter... just back from a week's holiday on the Island: by far my luckiest-ever visit as regards encountering red squirrels, which tend to be very shy and retiring. Had a couple of strokes of luck re "wild encounters".

Also: have learned that there is now a venue on the Island, where red squirrels can be met with close-up, virtually guaranteed. It's a nature reserve on which the wardens, at a particular point, habituate the squirrels by leaving food for them -- go there, and squirrels will very likely be there, and come, unafraid, within a few feet of you. I went there, and experienced exactly that.

Anyone interested -- please PM me, and I'll give directions.
 

Stormkhan

Disturbingly familiar
Joined
May 28, 2003
Messages
4,819
Reaction score
2,303
Points
189
Is there still a rope "squirrel bridge" parallel to "Lady Jane's Bridge" on the Shorwell Shute? I always thought they were bright enough to use ... the human bridge.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Must admit to never having seen any of the IOW's reputed rope bridges for squirrels.

If squirrels are thought maybe not easily to "get it" -- that's nothing to some of the tales which I've heard, concerning endangered bats, and measures taken by conservationists, to get said bats safely across busy roads.
 

Stormkhan

Disturbingly familiar
Joined
May 28, 2003
Messages
4,819
Reaction score
2,303
Points
189
They exist ... but, in fairness, thick hawsers weren't used. Just strategic lengths of "hairy" rope put across a couple of roads, at a height that they wouldn't catch on passing high-sided vehicles such as buses.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Wasn't implying doubt as to the existence of the squirrel ropes ("reputed" was a poor choice of word) -- have seen photographs; only that in my (far from exhaustive) travels around the Island, I haven't happened on any.
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
7,192
Reaction score
10,799
Points
299
Red squirrels are making a comeback round here, largely because some local organisation has been 'culling' grey ones. Isn't that some sort of colour prejudice? :)

It does surprise me (not particularly being a nature lover) how people can classify some animals or birds as 'good' and others as 'bad'. I remember reporting an injured and trapped seagull to the RSPB and they couldn't give a toss, even to put it out of its misery.
 

Mythopoeika

I am a meat popsicle
Joined
Sep 18, 2001
Messages
46,066
Reaction score
40,336
Points
334
Location
Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
Cochise said:
I remember reporting an injured and trapped seagull to the RSPB and they couldn't give a toss, even to put it out of its misery.

I guess the attitude is 'birds get injured and die every day', so they would have probably only done something if it had been an endangered species.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Cochise said:
Red squirrels are making a comeback round here, largely because some local organisation has been 'culling' grey ones. Isn't that some sort of colour prejudice? :)

It does surprise me (not particularly being a nature lover) how people can classify some animals or birds as 'good' and others as 'bad'.
Concerning British squirrels – I see it as a matter of the native red species, which has been here for millennia; as opposed to the American grey species, introducing which into Britain, some people in the 19th century thought to be a cool idea. The grey squirrel – stronger, tougher and more adaptable – has multiplied, and largely displaced the red squirrel from the relevant ecological niche in Britain. This factor; plus, in most people’s estimation, including mine: grey squirrels are quite lovable, but the daintier red kind is considerably more so.

Darwin in strict mode would presumably reckon that invasions by species, are going to happen; and with that being so, the feeble red kind here, deserves to perish. Very many people are, however, not so cool and dispassionate about such matters.

Colourful (no pun intended) scenarios come to mind, of this becoming an issue engaging widespread passions in Britain – “squirrel wars”, with rival Red, and Grey, proponents seeking to help to prosper; and to kill; their respective favoured / non-favoured species -- and the struggle spilling over into human-on-human violence between the opposing groups...
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
7,192
Reaction score
10,799
Points
299
amyasleigh said:
Colourful (no pun intended) scenarios come to mind, of this becoming an issue engaging widespread passions in Britain – “squirrel wars”, with rival Red, and Grey, proponents seeking to help to prosper; and to kill; their respective favoured / non-favoured species -- and the struggle spilling over into human-on-human violence between the opposing groups...

Having grown up in an area where grey squirrels were pretty much the only wild mammals I ever saw, I'm quite fond of them. I'd be quite angry if these folks 'cull' included the pair that used to live in the tree outside my kitchen here. I only found out about it because as mentioned I saw a red squrrel about half a mile from my home and was surprised as I didn't think there were any here - freinds of mine said I should report it which is when I discovered about the whole 'culling' thing. I've seen a grey in the last few days, though, so either they missed a few or they are recolonising from adjacent grey-squirrel-friendly areas!
 

Fats_Tuesday

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Sep 5, 2001
Messages
524
Reaction score
18
Points
49
I don't see how the grey squirrel control to help the reds is any different from any number of other cull programmes that take place when an introduced, invasive non-native species threatens the existence of threatened native species.

The release of grey squirrels into the wild in the UK and subsequent decimation of the red squirrel population is a man-made ecological disaster, so do we then just sit back and say "Oh well", or do we try and act ethically to prevent the reds from being wiped out?

The same goes for control of introduced minks which have decimated native water voles, introduced signal crayfish which have decimated British white-clawed crayfish, and countless other similar examples around the world.

I guess it all depends on where you stand ethically on humanity's responsibility for cleaning up its own mistakes where it can, and I for one am reluctant to base the decision to control an introduced species on its cuteness.
 

Anome

Bibliomancer
Joined
May 23, 2002
Messages
5,559
Reaction score
663
Points
199
Location
Left, and to the Back
Of course this is an ongoing problem in Australia. Rabbits and foxes were introduced solely for "sport", and have laid waste to entire ecosystems.

Cats were introduced as pets, and have wiped out native bird and mammal species. Despite this, attempts to establish cat free ecosystems have met with public outcry, and in some instances wilful sabotage.

Then there's the cane toad. Oddly enough, no-one has much of a problem culling them. I wonder why?

Introduced species will always be disruptive to the native ecosystem in some way. I don't know what impact Grey Squirrels have beyond displacing the Red Squirrels, but I shouldn't be surprised if it's affected a number of other species.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
And I gather (re the above post) that things have been yet more so in New Zealand; most especially after European settlement got going there (though previously, the Maori had brought dogs on purpose, and rats by accident, and trouble started). Picture being in N.Z., pre-human arrival, there had been basically birds -- most species of those flightless -- with no significant predators (other than native birds of prey? – am not sure on that point). Predatory mammals were extremely bad news for the local bird life.

The rights and wrongs of man’s intervening – and to what degree – to try to moderate the consequences of his actions in such circumstances, can be argued about ad infinitum. I personally would find it sad, if humans were to take no measures to conserve native species, “wherever”, at threat from introduced ones (assorted justifications for so doing: scholarly / emotional / practical, viz. “maximum biodiversity is good”). Am aware that there are some who take on this matter, a very hard-nosed position of “the weak go to the wall”.
 

oldrover

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Oct 18, 2009
Messages
4,024
Reaction score
1,524
Points
174
pre-human arrival, there had been basically birds -- most species of those flightless -- with no significant predators (other than native birds of prey? – am not sure on that point)

You're quite right about the lack of mammalian predators, except insectivorous bats of course.

What's strange is that there were indigenous mammals there at one time.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
The mysterious "waitoreke", as treated of rather briefly and enigmatically by Heuvelmans? Or others, as of now unknown to me?
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
7,192
Reaction score
10,799
Points
299
Fats_Tuesday said:
I don't see how the grey squirrel control to help the reds is any different from any number of other cull programmes that take place when an introduced, invasive non-native species threatens the existence of threatened native species.

The release of grey squirrels into the wild in the UK and subsequent decimation of the red squirrel population is a man-made ecological disaster, so do we then just sit back and say "Oh well", or do we try and act ethically to prevent the reds from being wiped out?

The same goes for control of introduced minks which have decimated native water voles, introduced signal crayfish which have decimated British white-clawed crayfish, and countless other similar examples around the world.

I guess it all depends on where you stand ethically on humanity's responsibility for cleaning up its own mistakes where it can, and I for one am reluctant to base the decision to control an introduced species on its cuteness.

Protecting the areas that still have Red squirrels is a different matter.

What is going on here is a man made attempt to replace the established Greys with Reds. Why don't we replace ourselves with Neanderthals? They were here first, in all probability.

You say 'man-made ecological disaster'. That's vastly overstating the case. One slightly fitter and stronger species has replaced another closely related species over much of the country, but it hasn't even totally replaced the Red, and itself is being challenged by Black squirrels. If the Grey hadn't been introduced deliberatly, it would likely be here soon anyway since it is spreading west and south across Europe.

This is not on the scale of cane toads or rabbits in Australia which are cases of introduction of a totally alien species.

Your code of ethics seems to assume that you have the right to kill an animal because you think its in the wrong place. My code says that killing an animal is killing an animal whether you call it a 'cull' or a 'hunt' or just 'lunch'. It should be done only out of necessity, not out of some fanciful notion of what is 'right'.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
Thanks. V. interesting -- not a creature expected to be found hiding out in any remote corner of the bush, though !
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
I being seemingly the chief red-squirrel fan on this sub-forum (though not the initiator of the thread, and a little bemused as to how a species which indubitably exists, got into the "Cryptozoology" category); will "carry on as before".

I seldom see television; but happened to catch a few of the recent daily-broadcast "Autumnwatch" series, transmitted from a location in the Scottish Highlands, and featuring various fascinating local fauna, including red squirrels -- the grey kind have not yet penetrated that far north. There was interesting discussion about the red-versus-grey-squirrel situation in Britain; an element new to me, which was mentioned, concerned squirrels' gathering in autumn of nuts, and burying "hoards" of them (and per folklore, then forgetting where they've buried them).

I learned that studies by biologists have revealed that grey squirrels are significantly better at recalling the location of, and recovering, their nut-hoards; than are red squirrels. Thus, yet another point in favour of the alien grey squirrel, letting it successfully compete with and oust, the native British red -- after the winter, red squirrels tend to be less well-nourished and weaker, and in a less good position to breed, than their grey rivals. I feel torn about this whole matter: in part, regretting the decline of the more lovable native red squirrel in the face of competition from the introduced American species; in part, feeling as per Darwinian principles, that the (in various ways -- this latest, just one of several) weaker and less fit species deserves, under competition, to go to the wall.
 

oldrover

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Oct 18, 2009
Messages
4,024
Reaction score
1,524
Points
174
Not to worry the Welsh pine martens will save the day.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
oldrover said:
Not to worry the Welsh pine martens will save the day.
The martens are the boys, for sure -- lighter red squirrels up top, on the more slender branches -- heavier martens, and grey squirrels, lower down, martens perform great feats of execution among the grey squirrels -- "way to go !"
 

lkb3rd

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
296
Reaction score
7
Points
34
Anonymous said:
Letchworth, Hertfordshire is famous for its black squirrels - which are actually
a very rare mutation of the grey variety.
They were first recorded in 1944 and for some reason they seem to stay within
a four mile radius of the town centre.

There is a town near here in Connecticut called Shelton which has a population of black colored Grey Squirrels, as well as white.
http://www.damnedct.com/white-squirrels-shelton/
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
As seemingly the forum's chief red-squirrel-nut -- am submitting herewith, dispatch from the Isle of Wight front. I visited the island last week -- including a trip to the nature reserve on the island, mentioned in my 21/2/2012 post on this thread, where some degree of habituation is done by leaving out food for the squirrels. On my visit on Jan. 17th (the day before the "big snow"), for the three-quarters-of-hour I was there, red-squirrel action was plentiful -- a dozen or so sightings of what must, I reckon, have been at least three or four different animals. Trotting / climbing busily around, visiting the feeding-spots -- not tame enough to take from my hands, nuts which I had brought along; but I was within feet of them.

One is advised, if wishing for IOW squirrel encounters, to go to hoped-for venues in the first, or last, hours of daylight. Some months ago, I visited the "habituated" reserve told of above; but, around lunchtime -- "not hide nor hair" of a squirrel -- and not much bird activity. On Jan. 17th last, I made sure to call in, in the last couple of hours of daylight, on a miserable, grey day -- and squirrels were there in abundance.
 

amyasleigh

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
847
Reaction score
351
Points
69
As the forum's (I feel) designated-and-only red-squirrel-junkie -- am reporting herewith, from latest of frequent visits to the Isle of Wight. Most of week after Easter 2013 spent on the Island, with relatives -- objective, a round-island walk, with squirrels only secondary thereto.

Nonetheless -- it so happened that the holiday cottage at which we stayed, was extremely close to the nature reserve, in the eastern half of the island, in which squirrels have been, for the past couple of years, habituated. When we were setting out by car early one morning, to the start of the day's walk, the occupant of the "first car of the cavalcade" briefly spotted a red squirrel -- likely, he thought, two of them -- couldn't swear to the second.

Another day, back to base early, we went in the last couple of hours of daylight, to the reserve's understood bird-hide with secondary role as "squirrel central". After some minutes' suspense (lots of varied birds around, but...), we were rewarded with the arrival of a gorgeous red squirrel. Completely unafraid of people, he ran past us along the handrail paralleling the walkway to the hide -- thence many minutes' antics on a hung-up bird-feeder, and in and out of the hide; after which he ran into the undergrowth. Not long after, more of a similar performance by a red squirrel which might have been the first one, or might have been another. "Whichever" -- count self very satisfied red-squirrel-wise, by recent experience.
 
Top