Gamekeepers and members of a number of shoots across North Wales joined local volunteers to brush up their grey squirrel control skills at a training event organised by BASC.
The event, which was held at the Rhug Estate in Corwen, was attended by 15 people. Grey squirrel control is one strand of BASC’s Green Shoots in Wales conservation work, part-funded by Natural Resources Wales, to tackle invasive non-native species.
First introduced to the UK from the USA in 1876, greys have been extremely successful in spreading throughout the country, causing a range of problems. They damage timber crops by ring barking and killing trees, eat birds’ eggs and damage both domestic and game bird feeders. They are also responsible for the spread of Squirrel Pox – a virus that does not affect greys but kills red squirrels.
Audrey Watson, BASC Green Shoots Wales Officer, said: “We know that gamekeepers actively carry out grey squirrel control as part of their everyday duties, but it is good to have the support of so many of them for the Green Shoots Wales project to protect the remaining red squirrels in and around the Clocaenog Forest area. By attending this training day, the keepers and other local volunteers could take advantage of our free trap loan and see how they fit into the bigger picture of grey squirrel control in Wales.
“We have been working with the Rhug Estate for a few years now on mink control on the River Dee and, because we think there still may be remnant populations of red squirrels in the woods around Cynwyd, we were keen to extend the work to include the squirrel control element of the project to the shoots which use the estate woodlands. Neighbouring shooting estates also fall within the project area so it is great that their keepers, too, have joined in with the work.
“Following on from the training day, we will be installing trail cameras in some woods in the area to try and capture images of the elusive reds that we think may still be around.
“We are very grateful to Lord Newborough of Rhug Estate, for his support for the project and for the venue for the course.”
Dave Pooler, regional chairman for the NGO, said: “I was asked if in my position as the regional chairman for the NGO, I could help organise a group of dedicated people hoping to aid the reversal of the fortunes of the grey squirrel in North East region of North Wales. Audrey Watson from BASC delivered a very instructive talk on the correct procedure for trapping the grey squirrel, the natural history and the reasons behind the importance of trapping this invasive, non-native pest. I think that it’s wonderful that the two organisations can work together to help reduce the population of grey squirrels and possibly see the return of the native reds.”