Squirrel Action Greenhead & Gilsland
In conjunction with
Why the Grey Squirrel is a Threat.
The squirrel pox virus is deadly to our native red squirrels. It is spread by the imported grey squirrels. The grey's are unaffected by the virus but they act as carriers. It is an extremely unpleasant disease, producing raw sores on all exposed areas like eyes, nose, mouth and paws, leading to starvation and a lingering and miserable death. An infected grey will leave the virus through droppings, urine and blood thus infecting the areas it has visited. A red visiting the same area will pick up the infection through sores, cuts etc and will then spread it around other reds in the area.
Additionally, the greys are more aggressive, often killing young reds and raiding the dreys. The greys are able to feed on the nuts and seeds from the broad leaved trees even when they are not ripe enough for the reds to manage. This makes for a shortage of suitable food for the reds.
The Buffer Zone.
There are 16 designated red squirrel reserves in the North of England – based on conifer forests because those are the habitats where red squirrels thrive and the grey squirrels find it much less easy to find enough food. Around each reserve there is a vital buffer zone containing the deciduous woodlands and river valleys that are most vulnerable to attack from the greedy invaders. Greenhead and Gilsland, and indeed the whole of the Haltwhistle Parishes area, are in such an important buffer zone, for Kielder, Spadeadam and Kirshope forests – and have until recently themselves been blessed with a thriving and unmolested red squirrel population.
The Situation Here.
Jan Kippax, who formed the group, Squirrel Action Greenhead & Gilsland, received 19 reports of sightings of grey squirrels in this area in the first few months of the group’s existence. What is worse, there were also cases near Featherstone of the dreaded squirrel pox virus infecting red squirrels.
Help is needed.
All sorts of people and skills are needed – landowners;
people who have regular visits from red squirrels to their gardens;
people who will set and watch traps; people who can handle the telephone
or the computer work involved in recording sightings of reds and greys,
and keeping in contact with all the many people who are watching traps,
maintaining the web site; fund raisers; people who can man the group’s
stalls at events including the Farmers’ Market; people who are
willing and able to despatch the greys that are caught, humanely, and
take blood samples.
©SAGG C Kippax 2007