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The Forestry Commission has stepped in with a £13,000 over three years to help combat the spread of grey squirrels near a Northumberland red squirrel reserve.
The cash has been pledged to the Upper Wansbeck and Coquetdale Red Squirrel Group and will support the humane control of greys in part of a five kilometre buffer zone around Harwood Forest reserve, near Rothbury.
Buffer zones are a key part of efforts to protect reds from encroachment by their grey cousins, which were introduced into the UK from North America in the 19th century. The grant is the first made to the group, which was established last year by retired charity worker Jeanne Casken, from Holystone, and farmer David Wood, from Whinney Hill Farm, Longhorsley.
Jeanne – who is also a volunteer with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust – moved from Derbyshire five years ago and has a passion for Northumberland and its wildlife.
“I got involved by collecting sightings of red squirrels in Upper Coquetdale for the Trust and since then I’ve been keen to get more involved in conservation efforts. This grant is really timely as we have seen an alarming rise in greys spotted just outside the buffer zone and 56 have been culled in the last three months in a 20 acre area of woodland close to Brinkburn. We are faced with a simple choice as greys carry a pox virus lethal to reds.”
The new grant spread over three years will pay for an experienced trapper to work on land within the buffer zone owned by a local farmer.
Richard Pow, from the Forestry Commission’s North East Region, said:
“We have 17 red squirrel reserves in northern England and the work undertaken in the buffer zones is vital. Jeanne and David have shown tremendous initiative in getting a local group going and securing this crucial grant. This is the first time we have funded a group, rather than a specific landowner, to co-ordinate conservation work and we think this model has a big future. Support from the local community makes a massive difference in improving the prospects for reds in Coquetdale.”
NOTE TO EDITOR
Last week partners in red squirrel conservation revealed that northern England is to get a large-scale red squirrel conservation project A development team has been established to finalise plans in consultation with landowners, volunteers and red squirrel experts and a project development manager appointed by Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST) with funding from the Forestry Commission to work alongside Natural England staff. The project will incorporate recommendations from the Review of Red Squirrel Conservation Activity in Northern England published in September 2009, whilst also building on work already undertaken by local volunteer groups and the Save Our Squirrels (SOS) project, which is managed by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more go to www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland
Photo caption: Jean Casken for Holystone, founder of the Upper Wansbeck and Coquetdale Red Squirrel Group, which has won a grant to help control grey squirrels.
Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.