BASC NI urges farmers to help with grey squirrel control

Red SquirrelFarmers are being urged to help protect Northern Ireland’s native red squirrel by taking advantage of the joint pest control scheme run by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

There is widespread concern that the native red squirrel is in decline across Northern Ireland due to increasing populations of the non-native grey squirrel. Under the pest control scheme UFU farmers who have grey squirrels on their land will be put in touch with a BASC member who will be able to reduce the numbers.

Since the launch of the pest control scheme in August 2011, BASC members have dealt with a range of pest problems across the province, from feral pigeons in sheds to woodpigeons damaging crops and foxes taking poultry and newborn lambs.

BASC NI director, Tommy Mayne said: “Protecting the small populations of reds has become a priority for BASC NI and we are delighted that the UFU is supportive of our member’s efforts to halt the spread of the grey squirrels.”

UFU Deputy President, Ian Marshall said: “The aim of this scheme is to help put farmers in touch with people who shoot so they can help reduce the damage being caused by pests. The pest control scheme is provided free of charge and has proved popular, providing farmers with much needed help with pests which are damaging crops, taking livestock and spreading disease.”

The Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum is chaired by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency which recognises that BASC members play a significant part in helping to control numbers of greys. Forum chairman, Dr. Declan Looney said: “The fate of the remaining red squirrels lies in the hands of the landowners and volunteers that are working to save them. Grey squirrels compete with reds for both food and territory and carry a virus which devastates local red populations. The only way to secure the red squirrel’s future is to reduce the grey population as much possible. Grey squirrels are capable of travelling across farms, parks and gardens using hedgerows and farm woodland as transport corridors. Stopping this movement across the country helps the reds. The Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum supports the humane control of grey squirrels in Northern Ireland for the good of our native reds.”

Anyone who wants to join the scheme can contact the BASC Northern Ireland team on 028 9260 5050 or email nire@basc.org.uk with your BASC or UFU membership number, postcode and phone number. BASC NI will put UFU members in touch with their closest registered BASC members.

The pest control scheme is only available to BASC and UFU members. If you are a shooter but not a BASC member, phone 028 9260 5050 to join. Farmers who are not UFU members but want to take advantage of the scheme can join the UFU by phoning 028 9037 0222.