Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Litter
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 |
New danger for Fifeís red squirrels
Friday, April 20, 2012
The future of Fife’s red squirrel population has become critical with the devastating news that the deadly squirrel poxvirus, carried by American grey squirrels, has reached the central belt for the first time.
Grey squirrels were first introduced into Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline in 1919, and have spread throughout the region. Scotland is the last stronghold for red squirrels with number estimated at 121,000 – over 75% of the UK population. The grey squirrel was first introduced into England in 1876, and crucially, the grey squirrels later introduced into Scotland were free from the poxvirus.
The poxvirus first crossed the England-Scotland border in 2005 and it is on the move north. The fate of Scotland’s red squirrel might now be similar to those in mainland England where they are locally extinct.
Work by FCCT and the Fife Red Squirrel Group aims to protect the red squirrel against the threat of the grey squirrel which compete for food and spread the poxvirus, while remaining unaffected by it, amongst the native red variety.
Sophie Eastwood, our red squirrel project officer is leading the second phase of the Fife Red Squirrel project coordinated by the Trust. It is also supported by the Fife Environment Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and is being part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community LEADER in Fife Programme 2007-2013.
Sophie said: “The recent confirmation that squirrel poxvirus has reached the central belt is the absolute worst case scenario for the future of the red squirrel in Scotland. Until a vaccine exists the only way to protect red squirrels from the virus is by removing grey squirrels.”
The grey squirrel is not only a threat to the red squirrel but it is also a forestry and urban pest. Grey squirrels are being trapped throughout the country for both economic and conservation reasons. As set out by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to release, or allow the escape, of a grey squirrel into the wild.
People are being encouraged get involved in the fight against the poxvirus. To make a donation to the project, or report findings of dead red squirrels, contact Sophie directly on 08451 55 55 55 ext 445358 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To record sightings of red and grey squirrels visit: http://www.swt.org.uk/wildlife/squirrelsightings/
Photo caption: Red squirrel captured by Cupar resident Joe Dobson.