Red squirrel awareness week is upon us! This gives us an excuse (not that we really need one) to shout about our beloved native British red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). The British red Squirrel has long been our nations icon, used in stories such as Beatrix Potters, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Ad campaigns to teach us the green cross code The Tufty Club The Tufty Club – Do You Remember?.
Unfortunately, our beloved mammal is endangered in the UK and needs our help.
Here at Three Atop we understand the symbiosis of our landscape needs to be protected. Red Squirrels have been on our shores for thousands of years, they have evolved with our ancient woodlands. To lose them here would be devastating to the UK’s biodiversity. Their survival is crucial to maintaining ecological balance.
What are we doing to help
Upon hearing the conservation efforts in place around the country, we jumped at the chance to collaborate with Red Squirrel South West – Saving Red Squirrels & Exmoor – Welcome to Exmoor National Park (exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk) to get involved and save the beautiful Red Squirrel. Together we created The Exmoor Squirrel Project – Three Atop.
We are focusing on a 35km stretch along the North Coast of Exmoor using its landscape as natural barriers. To one side the sea, to the other extensive and vast moorland. Unfortunately, we do not have any Red Squirrels in the South West, we aim to rectify this and bring the Reds back to Exmoor in the not so far away future.
We set to work raising awareness of the project through local and national media. Media – Three Atop Whilst of course the media focused on the click bait, the attention brought to the conservation of the Red Squirrel was extremely positive and had people talking about our native mammals.
Why is the Red Squirrel endangered
Primarily due to the introduction of the invasive Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) from North America. The Grey squirrel is much larger than our native red, the grey will devour food sources quickly leaving the Red without. Greys are able to digest unripe food sources whereas, the red cannot. Without nourishment the Red Squirrel is unable to thrive and therefore unable to breed.
The most significant threat associated with grey squirrels is the spread and transmission of a disease called squirrelpox virus (SQPV). The grey squirrels carry the disease with no harmful effects to them. All it takes is one grey squirrel to introduce this virus to a local population of reds. The virus can quickly spread with devastating and fatal effects, wiping out entire colonies. The simple answer is, the invasive Grey squirrel cannot stay on our shores if we want to save our native red.
How are we going to achieve our goal
We began by identifying tree damage around our woodlands on Exmoor. Working closely with industry expert Charles Dutton The Exmoor Squirrel Project 2023 – Charles Dutton & Co (Dorset) Ltd we were able to quickly identify the most effected areas. Using research from Charles’ book The Grey Squirrel Management Handbook from Summerfield Bookshttps://www.summerfieldbooks.com/product/the-grey-squirrel-management-handbook/
How can you help
We are looking for volunteers and land owners across Exmoor to aid us in saving the Red Squirrel and eventually reintroducing them to Exmoor.
If you have some spare time and want to know more about this project, we would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not in our project area, please do consider volunteering/donating for other groups around the country.
In the most northern parts of Britain and Northern Ireland they are lucky enough to still have these beautiful red mammals in their woodland. If you spot a grey squirrel when on your walks in these places, please do contact your local squirrel group. Reporting sightings can mean the difference between an entire colony of reds being wiped out by squirrel pox or not.
Webinars this week
Tuesday 3rd October SOS: Save Our Squirrels! – The Mammal Society
UKSA Annual red squirrel conservation update
Wednesday 4th October
Red squirrel monitoring techniques