BASC has highlighted the role of volunteers in managing grey squirrels, especially in public woodlands, in its response to the Welsh government’s consultation on a draft Grey Squirrel management action plan for Wales.
The plan recognises that grey squirrels are a significant invasive non-native species that negatively impact woodland and wider biodiversity. The consultation will gather views on their population management.
The plan states that there are insufficient resources to manage grey squirrels on every part of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE) but that Natural Resources Wales could support grey squirrel management as part of a co-ordinated landscape-scale partnership approach.
BASC believes there is a huge potential for volunteers to control grey squirrels, reducing NRW’s management costs while contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources and the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
Steve Griffiths, BASC’s director Wales, said: “There are several red squirrel projects running in Wales, including ones actively supported by BASC, where management of grey squirrels in the public woodland estate is essential.
“Conservation action for red squirrels includes ensuring that grey squirrels and red squirrels do not meet in order to avoid grey squirrels competing for resources or passing on fatal diseases. People are willing to give their time to help. The Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales must embrace this offer if we are to effectively control grey squirrels on a landscape scale.”
Membership of the Wales Squirrel Forum includes public bodies, wildlife organisations, foresters and experts committed to red squirrel conservation and appropriate grey squirrel population management. The consultation proposes that the forum could act as a steering group for the delivery of the Grey Squirrel Management Action Plan.
Duncan Greaves, a member of BASC Council and chairman of BASC’s Wales committee, said: “We are proud of the effort BASC has put into red squirrel conservation and grey squirrel population management in Wales. Numbers of people shooting in Wales are growing and they often form the core of volunteer networks for the control of grey squirrels.
“They will help not only for red squirrel conservation but also for protecting growing trees from damage from grey squirrels. With access to over 380,000 ha in Wales, people who shoot are a key partner for landscape-scale action.”