Wildlife Trusts’ biggest-ever recruitment drive will see volunteers monitor populations, educate children – and bludgeon grey squirrels to death
Friday 24 February 2017 06.01 GMT
An army of 5,000 volunteers is being sought to save the red squirrel from extinction by monitoring populations, educating children – and bludgeoning grey squirrels to death.
The Wildlife Trusts’ biggest-ever recruitment drive is focused on areas of northern England, north Wales and Northern Ireland where invasive grey squirrels first introduced by the Victorians are driving the retreating red squirrel population to extinction.
More than 2.5 million grey squirrels are continuing to spread north through England and into Scotland, out-competing the 140,000 remaining red squirrels and spreading the squirrelpox virus, which does not affect greys but rapidly kills reds.
“In most of the UK there are only a handful of refuges left for red squirrels,” said Dr Cathleen Thomas, programme manager of Red Squirrel United, a conservation partnership started in 2015. “Without help, experts predict this beautiful and treasured creature could be extinct within as little as 35 years.”
Volunteers for Red Squirrel United will be asked to monitor red squirrel strongholds in Northumberland, Merseyside, Wales and Northern Ireland, and report any grey squirrels entering these areas. Volunteers will set up camera traps to film squirrel behaviour and teach the public and school children about the way in which greys have rapidly driven the reds to extinction across southern Britain since 1945.