Thousands of grey squirrels culled to make way for red ones
Landowners across the Lizard Peninsula have culled thousands of grey squirrels during a project to reintroduce red native ones.
The Cornwall Red Squirrel Trust has been coordinating farmers and land owners efforts to eradicate grey squirrels using the poison warfarin, live traps and shooting since 2009.
In that time it has seen the grey squirrel population plummet from thousands to just hundreds with hopes of reds being re-introduced in under three years.
The peninsula, along with West Penwith, have been chosen as the ideal sites for the project because of their rural and isolated positions.
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The area covers around 5,500 acres including the Trelowarren estate on The Lizard, where owner Sir Ferrers Vyvvyan is backing the project.
The estate website says: “ Sadly for both the greys and the reds, grey squirrels carry a disease, called squirrel pox, which kills reds. Greys also live in much denser numbers and compete for the same food as the reds so there is no way they can share the same habitat.
“The Forestry Commission, The National Trust and most woodland owners have been culling grey squirrels for decades because of the damage they do to young woodland. The process is controlled by strict protocols and is handled as humanely as possible.”
Natasha Collings, from Cornwall Red Squirrel Trust, said it has appointed a grey squirrel ranger, David Fineren, who has been working with land owners to ensure there is a joined up approach to the grey squirrel cull.
She said: “We have followed the Anglesey project where there are now around 400 red squirrels. When they started they were down to just 40. If we can keep the numbers down on The Lizard and West Penwith then we could be reintroducing reds in three years.”
However, Cornwall Wildlife Trust while backing the reintroduction of red squirrels says it has major concerns over the cull.
On its website it said: “We have identified, with conservation partners, many other species still present in Cornwall that are high on the list of priorities and need urgent conservation action such as greater horseshoe bats, marsh fritillary butterflies and the European eel.
“Other red squirrel projects nationally aim to isolate red squirrels from grey squirrels by providing minimal habitat linkages from the core project area out to the wider countryside. Cornwall Wildlife Trust is concerned that if this approach is taken it may hinder wider conservation work to connect habitats in Cornwall. Furthermore, we are concerned that habitat for red squirrel (coniferous / mixed woodland) does not reflect the typical habitats on The Lizard peninsula and west Penwith (open heathland and farmland).”