Environment

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000

Description

Introduction
We are in a battle to save our native red squirrels. They were common and seen on a daily basis throughout the Coquetdale Valley. Today They are rarely seen and are in danger of extinction due to the appearance of grey squirrels which have caused competition for food resources and the introduction of squirrel pox. The replacement of red squirrels by greys has occurred throughout Britain to the point where we now only have an estimated 140,000 native red squirrels in the UK and only 12,000 in England of which 60% are in Northumberland. There are now over 2.5 million grey squirrels. Our local red squirrels are in danger of extinction.
Because of the isolated and rural nature of our area we feel that the amount of work required to achieve this is likely to become too much for just volunteers. We would like to carry out a feasibility study to see if employing a “Squirrel Ranger” would be the way forward. The project funding would allow us to try it for 6 months and then evaluate its impact and the benefits, problems and unforeseen costs that occur. If successful we would then seek other further funding including crowdfunding.
The threat of red squirrel extinction locally
In the 1960s squirrel pox (SQPV) emerged in the UK and a link was observed between the arrival of greys in an area and the incidence of SQPV in the native red squirrel populations which did not have immunity to the disease. Shrinking forests, different tree planting and climate change have all benefitted the greys. Population modelling has shown that the 60% of the fecund grey squirrel population need to be removed each year to prevent the replacement of native red squirrels by greys.
Coquetdale Squirrel Group
Our Group has grown from a small number of people in 2008 concerned with the increasing sightings of grey squirrels in our area and subsequent decline of reds.
We cover a remote area with very low population density. Despite this, during the last ten years our organisation has grown to 30 volunteer members who are active in the field, monitoring, trapping and feeding; we also have the support of over 100 people on our mailing list. To finance our activities we hold social events, sell “squirrel related” merchandise and accept donations. Despite the dedication, energy and hard work of our volunteers our remnant populations of red squirrels are decreasing and being replaced by the more aggressive and larger greys. The reds are in danger of becoming extinct within ten years unless we intensify and diversify our activities. The Aviva Community Fund Project would enable us to extend and redouble our efforts to save our red squirrels from extinction. 1 Rushton et al (2006) Disease threats posed by alien species; the role of pox virus in the decline of native red squirrel in Britain - Epidemiology and Infection Journal of Applied Ecology 37, 521 - 533
Project aim
To prevent the extinction of and to extend the habitat of remnant red squirrel populations in the Coquet Valley and surrounding area.
Project objectives
● Reduce grey squirrel numbers by at least 60 % each year
● Extend suitable red squirrel habitat together with local woodland owners and managers
● Engage with schools, youth groups and other local organisations to foster awareness and involvement
● Recruit and train a further 30 active volunteers.
● When available, implement novel control measures such as contraception for grey squirrels and immunisation of reds. These methods are currently in development as part of an integrated control strategy

The objectives outlined above are unlikely to be met by volunteers alone.
The Group wishes to evaluate the pros and cons of employing a suitably qualified, “Squirrel Ranger” in order to realise the objectives.
The Aviva Community Fund £10,000 would allow us to carry out a feasibility study.

North East Red Squirrels

In the last ten years we have “held the line” for red squirrels despite our isolated area. The people are, “hefted” like ewes on the hills and wouldn’t live anywhere else! We wish to ensure that future generations can enjoy their native red squirrels. This project will enable this.

Location: Rothbury