The eradication of grey squirrels from Anglesey has heralded the dramatic recovery of the red squirrel population in North Wales and after making their way across the bridges, red squirrels are now frequently seen in the woodlands of Treborth and in gardens around Bangor.

Red Squirrel Trust Wales are committed to controlling the numbers of grey squirrels in Gwynedd and want to protect native species and forests which are threatened by the grey squirrel.

Grey Squirrels

Since their introduction from the United States in the 1870s grey squirrels have decimated the native red squirrel population across the UK, reducing their numbers from 3.5 million red squirrels to around 250,000 reds.

The larger grey squirrels carry the squirrel pox virus, while immune to it themselves, it’s deadly to reds, the greys also “out-compete” their smaller cousins. Grey squirrels also damage trees such as oak, beech and sycamore by stripping their bark, casing millions of pounds worth of damage.

Pine Martens

The Red Squirrel Trust, along with other organisations, are now considering the introduction of captive bred Pine Martens in the Bangor area and northern Gwynedd as a way of controlling the grey squirrel population.

Research has shown that Pine Marten populations drastically reduce the numbers of grey squirrels while reds squirrels thrive, as pine martens and red squirrels, which are both native to the UK, quite happily co-exist.

Red squirrels are quick and small and are light enough to reach the ends of the branches, where the pine martens can’t follow, but grey squirrels are slower and heavier than the reds, spending more time foraging on the woodland floor making them more susceptible to pine martens.

Researchers placed nut feeders in places where pine martens were common and found that red squirrels were much less likely to visit nut feeders, but greys were not, suggesting greys are “naive to the risks of pine martens as a predator”

Red Squirrel Trust Wales would like to hear your views on the introduction of pine martens to control grey squirrels in Gwynedd, you can contact them by email: craig.shuttleworth@rsst.org.uk

(Photo: Karen Bullock)