Red Squirrels

amyasleigh

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Quake42 said:
Northumberland has long been a red squirrel stronghold and my mother was very disappointed to see a grey while I was visiting a few weeks ago.

We reported the sighting - there's an online facility for doing so - and got a pretty quick reply to the effect that someone was going to be sent out asap to trap and cull the unfortunate grey.
Sorry to learn of sighting mentioned; but glad there's hope that the little bleeder's corpse might soon be dispatched to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to make into part of a nice main course (I can get a bit inappropriately vicious about grey squirrels).

I've had the impression that for quite a while now, red squirrels have been under considerable pressure from the advancing grey kind, in the far north of England: holding out relatively better on the far north's western side, than in Northumberland; but basically in some degree of trouble overall, up in those parts.
 

oldrover

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I'm just about to head off to the Red area in the S.W Cambrians. I know there the greys have infiltrated but there are a death squads roaming the area.

Personally I don't think I could harm a squirrel despite knowing it's the right thing to do.

This area is also supposed to contain pine martens.
 

oldrover

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Well that went really well. When I got to the road through the forest there was a bloke in yellow reflective gear leaning on a sign blocking the road. He was very apologetic but today, he told me, the road was closed.

I did see something very strange later on though. Taking a short cut home through MOD land, and after having been ordered to stop for a bit by a group of armed soldiers (who were incidentally quite obviously not your normal sort), I looked to my lefty and about 3/4 of a mile or so away was a Bavarian village.

I'd heard of these things before, mock up villages built during the Cold War to train for a potential Soviet invasion of West Germany.
 

amyasleigh

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Further to recent postings about red squirrels in England's far north, under pressure from the grey kind: relevant reference lately hit upon in a book titled "Never Mind the Quantocks" (published a couple of years ago), by Stuart Maconie -- rock-and-popular-music writer and radio-and-TV-presenter, and outdoors-lover and hill-walking enthusiast. I personally found the book, a mixture of delightful and off-putting. My impression of Maconie therefrom, is of a person with a genuine passion for wild places and nature, and a quite talented writer; but an irritatingly up-himself and pleased-with-himself super-extrovert and self-dogmatist, in the worst tradition of media types.

The book shows Maconie as a lover of, above all, the Lake District (and contains no actual mention of the Quantock Hills -- the title is purely for the sake of the pun). He has a weekend place in the Lakes; and mentions in the book, wildlife encounters immediately-there. It's well known that there are still red squirrels in the Lake District, though the grey interlopers are moving into the area. Quoting Maconie: "We...get unreasonably excited when we see evidence that red squirrels have been to the feeder, although we've only seen one once, one misty June dawn... The red squirrel...[skipping overdone romantic gushery]: shy and beautiful and sadly passing from our world thanks to our stupidity and lack of understanding of nature. When the last red squirrel dies in these islands, as it will within my lifetime I am sure, another bit of colour and joy will have passed from life..."

Oh, yeah, Stuart? You were born in 1961 -- you can reasonably expect to last until a bit before the middle of the 21st century. Perhaps I'm a rose-coloured-spectacles optimist; but -- from what I think I know about the issue -- I'd be ready to make a large bet with you, that there'll still be wild red squirrels in the British Isles when you pop your clogs. Maybe you might soft-pedal the misery-porn and recreational outrage, just a little bit?
 

amyasleigh

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Maybe at a loose end on a Friday evening -- anyway, re my above post, I recently wrote a letter and sent it, via his publishers, to Stuart Maconie -- hopefully politely, disputing his contentions about red squirrels in the British Isles; and giving data suggesting that they're on not such a bad wicket as he envisages.

Will be interesting to see if I get a response, and of what kind (would suspect that he's a nicer person one-on-one, than he comes across as, from his media-and-journalist persona.)
 

amyasleigh

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Just back from my second spell this year, on the Isle of Wight. Made usual pilgrimage to the Wight Nature Fund reserve, on the eastern side of the island, where the local red squirrels are habituated by the wardens. Visit there made, in early morning. A half-hour-plus's heavy rain shower at exactly the wrong time, likely put a crimp in things; but after the rain had stopped, got at the bird hide which is acknowledged as "Squirrel Central", a half-minute or so's sighting of a squirrel, which came to within a couple of feet of me; and some while later, a very brief sighting -- lasting literally seconds -- of the same, or another, squirrel.

Saw no squirrels in a "free-range" situation anywhere else on the Island during this visit; but reckon any trip there with any squirrel sighting -- however brief -- as a victory. Have made several Wight visits, on which no squirrels seen at all. And this time, after the rain stopped, I was treated to a quite splendid bird show -- including a great spotted woodpecker perching on a peanut-filled feeder, chiefly meant for tits (sometimes also sampled by the squirrels), and doing a good job of extracting the nuts.

Have recently signed up with a subscription to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust -- figuring, whatever I can do to help...
 

ramonmercado

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Unclean! Unclean! They haven't a leg to stand on against the greys' now.

Better Together has blamed Salmond for this outrage.

Red squirrels being killed by form of leprosy in Scotland in latest threat to declining species

The native British animals are already threatened by greys and 'squirrelpox'

Red squirrels in Scotland are being killed by a form of leprosy that makes them lose their fur and die after causing painful swelling to their noses, ears and feet.

The new infection is the latest threat to the rare animals that have been in decline for years due to competition from invasive grey squirrels and the deadly “squirrelpox” virus.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have discovered six cases caused by bacteria similar to Mycobacterium lepromatosis, which causes leprosy, since 2006.

Little is known about how the disease spreads and it has never before been seen in red squirrels.

Professor Anna Meredith, from Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, urged members of the public to report sightings of infected animals.

“We suspect this disease is more widespread than the six cases we have confirmed,” she told the BBC.

Formby, Lancashire is well known as a special place to see red squirrels Red squirrels have been declining in Britain since the 19th Century "Red squirrels are in decline. They are threatened by the grey squirrel and already face the major threat of the squirrelpox virus.

“This is the last thing that they need - another disease which could potentially threaten the population.” ...

http://www.independent.co.uk/environmen ... 98744.html
 

amyasleigh

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ramonmercado said:
Unclean! Unclean! They haven't a leg to stand on against the greys' now.

Better Together has blamed Salmond for this outrage.

Red squirrels being killed by form of leprosy in Scotland in latest threat to declining species

The native British animals are already threatened by greys and 'squirrelpox'

Red squirrels in Scotland are being killed by a form of leprosy that makes them lose their fur and die after causing painful swelling to their noses, ears and feet.

The new infection is the latest threat to the rare animals that have been in decline for years due to competition from invasive grey squirrels and the deadly “squirrelpox” virus.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have discovered six cases caused by bacteria similar to Mycobacterium lepromatosis, which causes leprosy, since 2006.

Little is known about how the disease spreads and it has never before been seen in red squirrels.

Professor Anna Meredith, from Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, urged members of the public to report sightings of infected animals.

“We suspect this disease is more widespread than the six cases we have confirmed,” she told the BBC.

Formby, Lancashire is well known as a special place to see red squirrels Red squirrels have been declining in Britain since the 19th Century "Red squirrels are in decline. They are threatened by the grey squirrel and already face the major threat of the squirrelpox virus.

“This is the last thing that they need - another disease which could potentially threaten the population.” ...

http://www.independent.co.uk/environmen ... 98744.html
Like the woman says -- "the last thing that they need" -- yet another, and horrible-for-the-victim, disease. If this were sci-fi about some beautiful and apparently cursed species, the author would right now be being accused of laying it on too thick...

Some relatives and I were talking about this issue the other day. My niece remarked, philosophically, "Well, survival of the fittest...". I feel regretfully, that she might be onto something there.
 

rynner2

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Red Squirrels have friends in high places...

Prince of Wales orders grey squirrel cull on estate

The Prince of Wales has ordered a cull of grey squirrels on the Duchy of Cornwall estate in an attempt to protect the indigenous red variety.
The estate will employ "humane and lawful" methods to control the grey population.

Grey squirrels carry a poxvirus which is deadly to the red species.
There are thought to be approximately 2.5 million grey squirrels in Britain compared to an estimated 140,000 red squirrels.

A spokesman for Prince Charles said: "The red squirrel is a most cherished and iconic national species, and, as patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, The Prince of Wales keenly supports all efforts to conserve and promote their diminishing numbers.
"Where appropriate, this includes the humane and lawful control of grey squirrels as well as other measures to enhance the natural habitat of reds across the Duchy of Cornwall estate, in accordance with established estate management practices."

The Forestry Commission said grey squirrels were "extremely destructive" in woodlands and have a "major impact" on conservation, biodiversity and sustainability.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-29687013
 

JamesWhitehead

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There looked to be about 2.5 million greys in Heaton Park yesterday.

I wonder if they taste nice. :wow:
 

amyasleigh

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JamesWhitehead said:
There looked to be about 2.5 million greys in Heaton Park yesterday.

I wonder if they taste nice. :wow:
They do -- I've had grey squirrel both braised, and in pasties. The taste is quite similar to rabbit. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a number of grey squirrel recipes.

In present conditions in this country, eating red squirrel is of course totally "not on"; anyway (I think that the following is again, as per H. F-W.) its usefulness as food is doubtful. Red squirrels are significantly smaller than grey ones -- it would take a fair few reds to make a worthwhile meal.
 

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Elvis ate squirrel. Didn't do him any harm.

In fact, one might argue that things went downhill when he started eating PROPER junk food.
 

uair01

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JamesWhitehead said:
I wonder if they taste nice. :wow:

Off topic, but recently I was told that crow-soup should be very tasty. It used to be made in the Czech Republic when my acqaintances were young.
 

amyasleigh

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uair01 said:
JamesWhitehead said:
I wonder if they taste nice. :wow:

Off topic, but recently I was told that crow-soup should be very tasty. It used to be made in the Czech Republic when my acqaintances were young.
As a child, I ate rook pie a couple of times -- this was in rural eastern England. Seem to recall liking it. I gather that the time for this dish, is the birds' breeding season; you shoot and eat the very young, tender ones.

My sampling of this country delicacy was 60+ years ago, when times in Britain were rather lean, and post-World War II rationing was still in force. By the same token, I gather that in the Communist era in Eastern Europe, food supply and distribution could sometimes be rather dodgy. I rather wonder how much rook pie and crow soup is eaten, here / there, in these on the whole more plentiful times...
 

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I'd forgotten about the Elvis cookbook!

I still think the deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich might be fun.

Once in a lifetime. :)
 

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amyasleigh

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Have come to feel that my periodic accounts of my visits 2 / 3 times a year to the Isle of Wight, and red-squirrel doings at the nature reserve in the east of the island where the wardens have semi-habituated the wee beasties, have become a bit repetitious and boring. Am just back from a few days on IOW – was going to refrain from posting about same; but visit to reserve, truly yielded a “result” – so will proceed to bore patient readers with it, after all.

On November 4th this year, I spent about an hour (3 to 4 p.m.) at the reserve, at the “hide” there which is “squirrel central”. There were already there, three fellow-nature-lovers who were hoping to make videos / still photos of the red squirrels. In the interests of this, they had put out in various places, tempting peanuts-in-shells. Before long, this ploy succeeded – for about twenty minutes, identifiably three different squirrels (one with a bright-red, almost orangey, coat, two darker-hued) were bounding all around the place, in and about the hide and in the surrounding trees, there and back. Excellent photo / video results, I gather. After the photters / videoers had to depart, there was a fair amount more squirrel action by at least two different individuals, including Mr. Almost-Orangey.

The squirrels seem to like getting peanuts out of the peanut-filled bird-feeders near the hide; I observed one squirrel clinging onto the bottom of a feeder, extracting peanuts, for about twenty minutes. Some of said feeders in the vicinity are “squirrel-proofed” – enclosed / encaged by wiring punctuated by holes sufficient to let small birds get through, but too small to admit even a red squirrel – so as not to have the birds totally lose out.
 

amyasleigh

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Having for most of a year, spared folk my accounts of visits to Southern Britain's biggest and best red-squirrel stronghold, the Isle of Wight; I reckon it excusable to do a bit more of such. Visits in January and April this year to the Wight Nature Fund reserve on the eastern side of the island, where squirrels are relatively used to human visitors, drew blanks there (though the Jan. trip yielded a very brief "real", as opposed to "on-reserve",sighting). Am just back from a third trip to the Island this year: this time, a couple of hours spent at the reserve's observation hide were rewarded by a single squirrel, with beautiful chestnut-red coat, who "performed" almost as though by arrangement, for about half an hour -- much agile tree-leaping, and quite a long spell hanging on to a bird-feeder extracting peanuts, as the squirrels fairly often do.

A quite entertaining book, "for them as likes that sort of thing", recently published: by the journalist, and disarmingly non-expert (and humorous) wildlife buff, Charlie Elder. Something of a "the mixture as before" follow-up to his book published a few years ago, While Flocks Last -- about the author's quest over a year, in a great variety of parts of Britain, to see what are reckoned the country's fifty scarcest and most-endangered bird species. The new book, Few and Far Between, chronicles a more recent but similar mission by the author: this time in search of Britain's five-or- six rarest of each category of: mammals, birds (not all the same as in While Flocks…), reptiles / amphibians, invertebrates, and fish. I'd wondered whether his mammal list would include the red squirrel: not so -- though getting a passing mention or two in the course of the book, sciurus vulgaris is plainly, for Mr. Elder, relatively as common as muck. His five mammals are the Scottish wildcat; the pine marten; the dormouse (met by him, incidentally, on the Isle of Wight); Bechstein's bat; and the now exceedingly rare black rat, whose only remaining significant and dependable population in Britain, is on the tiny Shiant Islands in the Minch.
 

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Is there anything more stupid than the government’s plan to kill grey squirrels?

I ask not because I believe – as Animal Aid does – that grey squirrels are harmless. Far from it: they have eliminated red squirrels from most of Britain since their introduction by Victorian landowners, and are now doing the same thing in parts of the continent. By destroying young trees, they also make the establishment of new woodland almost impossible in many places. As someone who believes there should be many more trees in this country, I see that as a problem. A big one.

No, I oppose the cull for two reasons. The first is that it’s a total waste of time and money. Here’s what scientists who have studied such programmes have to say:

“To date, there has been no successful method developed in the long-term control (nor indeed the eradication) of grey squirrel populations ... a recovery in numbers was found to take place within 10 weeks of intensive culling programs.”

You pour the money in and it pours out the other side. The government’s plan to sponsor an “eradication programme” to the tune of £100 per hectare per year is futile; though it will have the effect of transferring even more public money to rural landowners.

I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that the idea was approved by the former environment secretary Owen Paterson, whose primary mission in office appears to have been showering his chums with gold, while ruthlessly cutting any spending that might have delivered wider benefits. This was the man, remember, who almost doubled the subsidy for grouse moors.

My second reason for opposing the cull is that there is another way of dealing with grey squirrels, which requires hardly any expense, indeed hardly any human intervention at all. Unlike trapping, shooting or poisoning, it works. It is happening with extreme prejudice in Ireland at the moment.

There is a scientific term for this method. Pine martens.

http://www.theguardian.com/environm...-squirrels-without-firing-a-shot-pine-martens
 

Anonymous-50446

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http://midwalesredsquirrels.org/about-us/

The greys are trapped during the winter (when reds are napping) using cage traps and peanuts. Any captures that are 'the wrong sort' are simply released. Grey squirrels over 500g are virtually inedible, they are too tough to eat even casseroled for eternity. Under 500g, they're OK, not as 'gamey' as rabbit.
 

amyasleigh

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Is there anything more stupid than the government’s plan to kill grey squirrels?

I ask not because I believe – as Animal Aid does – that grey squirrels are harmless. Far from it: they have eliminated red squirrels from most of Britain since their introduction by Victorian landowners, and are now doing the same thing in parts of the continent. By destroying young trees, they also make the establishment of new woodland almost impossible in many places. As someone who believes there should be many more trees in this country, I see that as a problem. A big one.

No, I oppose the cull for two reasons. The first is that it’s a total waste of time and money. Here’s what scientists who have studied such programmes have to say:

“To date, there has been no successful method developed in the long-term control (nor indeed the eradication) of grey squirrel populations ... a recovery in numbers was found to take place within 10 weeks of intensive culling programs.”

You pour the money in and it pours out the other side. The government’s plan to sponsor an “eradication programme” to the tune of £100 per hectare per year is futile; though it will have the effect of transferring even more public money to rural landowners.

I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that the idea was approved by the former environment secretary Owen Paterson, whose primary mission in office appears to have been showering his chums with gold, while ruthlessly cutting any spending that might have delivered wider benefits. This was the man, remember, who almost doubled the subsidy for grouse moors.

My second reason for opposing the cull is that there is another way of dealing with grey squirrels, which requires hardly any expense, indeed hardly any human intervention at all. Unlike trapping, shooting or poisoning, it works. It is happening with extreme prejudice in Ireland at the moment.

There is a scientific term for this method. Pine martens.

http://www.theguardian.com/environm...-squirrels-without-firing-a-shot-pine-martens

Having read your links -- it would certainly seem that (as has been written on in the past in this thread): in this particular war, the pine marten is indeed a wonderful weapon on the "native species" side. Overall -- sadly -- potentially ugly conflicts of interest and priorities, about various aspects of this issue. If only all people with their likings for "God's various creatures" (to appreciate and / or to chase after and kill), were able to find some harmony and, at least, to compromise over their inevitable conflicts.
 

amyasleigh

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http://midwalesredsquirrels.org/about-us/

The greys are trapped during the winter (when reds are napping) using cage traps and peanuts. Any captures that are 'the wrong sort' are simply released. Grey squirrels over 500g are virtually inedible, they are too tough to eat even casseroled for eternity. Under 500g, they're OK, not as 'gamey' as rabbit.

My slight grey-squirrel-eating experience (the "product" got, from a firm purveying assorted unusual game by mail-order) had me finding the species very palatable: both stewed, and as a pasty ingredient. I don't know on what side of the 500g line those consumed by me, fell.
 

Mythopoeika

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Perhaps more resources should be spent on marketing grey squirrel as a popular new meat?
If it took off, more enterprising hunters would be off hunting them for sale to supermarkets, and perhaps the cull would then be underway.
 

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amyasleigh

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Dratted wild creatures, with this thing of theirs for brake-fluid...

There's a marvellous YouTube video somewhere around -- I lack the time right now, to hunt for it -- of a football match between two towns in Switzerland being interrupted by a pine marten running onto, and around, the pitch.
 

FelixAntonius

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Dratted wild creatures, with this thing of theirs for brake-fluid...

There's a marvellous YouTube video somewhere around -- I lack the time right now, to hunt for it -- of a football match between two towns in Switzerland being interrupted by a pine marten running onto, and around, the pitch.

It's here:
 

amyasleigh

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Thanks, FA. We Brits of our country's mostly duller south-and-east have to feel: lucky people of Continental Europe, seemingly with pine martens at the bottom of your garden...
 

amyasleigh

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Took a recent two-week holiday in Northern Ireland (plus odd bits of the Republic). As regards matters sciurine, rather a “nothing” report therefrom; but perhaps a change from me boring loggers-on, about Isle of Wight trips.


This was a multi-objective holiday, on the part of myself and a friend – basically conducted by car (that, my friend’s department – I don’t drive). Friend is essentially not a wildlife fan: compromises had to be reached. Touring by car is of course far from the best way of spotting wildlife, but it is not necessarily totally useless for the purpose – I have had a fair number of squirrel sightings from cars, this side of the water. On the whole, though, Irish wildlife seems overall not to have been in a co-operative mood for us in the recent fortnight, no matter what we were doing: a good deal sighted, but I had (perhaps greedily) hoped for better.


So – not a single squirrel seen in the whole fortnight, which covered most parts of the Province plus, as said, sampling bits of the Republic (including our sailing, for reasons of money-saving, between England and Dublin). My understanding is that both parts of Ireland contain squirrels of the red, and grey, kinds: as ever, the latter tending to “edge out” the former, but with reds still fairly numerous in many places. I’ve been given to understand that in the Six Counties, red squirrels are faring better on the western side (have seen a mention of the National Trust’s Crom estate, in County Fermanagh around the south end of Lower Lough Erne, as excellent for red squirrels); but that some are hanging on, though embattled by the greys, further east. Heard in conversation with locals, that in Co. Antrim around Portrush, and in various Glens of Antrim forests, red squirrels are still found; likewise in the Mourne Mountains, around Newcastle and other places; but that in north County Down, the greys have completely taken over.


At all events, a pleasant spell in a delightful part of the world, “squirrels or no squirrels”.
 

Patrick30

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We have fox squirrels, much rarer than the grays. They are a reddish color and much larger.
image.jpeg
 
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