Squirrel number red alert on Isle of Wight

By Richard Wright

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Squirrel number red alert on Isle of Wight

From left, Helen Butler, Bob and Jacquie Wilson and Dave Dana. Picture by Richard Wright.

RED squirrel numbers have plummeted to their lowest total since an Isle of Wight charity was formed to protect them 20 years ago.

News that numbers had dropped to about 2,000 from a peak of 3,500 was delivered at an event to mark two decades of the Wight Squirrel Project.

Project founder Helen Butler, who was recently awarded the MBE in recognition of her work, said: "Our woodland monitoring has shown depressing results. I have never before known nil sightings in both Borthwood and Bouldnor woodland."

When "road kills" reduce, that is a sure sign of low population numbers and Helen has noticed a marked reduction in those reports.

Deaths of squirrels crossing roads, disease passed on by cats, which also hunt squirrels, and buzzards taking them are all blamed for the population fall.

She doesn’t yet know whether it is just a cyclical dip in numbers or a part of steady decline.

Helen said: "Much of the information about protected buzzards taking squirrels is anecdotal but there has been filmed evidence of the much larger greys being taken on the mainland and first-hand sightings on the Island.

"One red was taken by a buzzard at a squirrel feeding station and it was directly witnessed, so there is no doubt about it," said Helen.

At an American supper held to celebrate the project and its work, Helen presented a trophy to honour volunteers to Jacquie and Bob Wilson, from Seaview.

Jacquie takes in orphaned and injured squirrels and nurses them to health, before releasing them back into the wild.

The trophy had been held by volunteer woodland monitoring trainer Dave Dana.

The supper was held at Newnham Farm, Binstead, the home of John and Di Cleaver, who do much to create squirrel-friendly habitat.

Reporter: richardw@iwcpmail.co.uk


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by Tim Brayford

24th August 2013, at 21:17:57

Red Squirrels are not the only threatened creatures present on the Isle of Wight. There is also a small breeding population of wild Red deer, a species that nationally is under threat from hybridization with the closely related Sika.

In Scotland over 100,000 Red Squirrels thrive alongside over 350,000 Red Deer.

Scientific research has shown that woodland creatures such as the Red Squirrel can benefit from the diverse woodland edge habitat that deer browsing and grazing helps to create.

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by neil jacks

24th July 2013, at 16:02:16

Re Don Prescott's comment about Buzzard taking Squirrel, may I ask if you have actually seen this happen? Did you actually read my posting before you posted your response?
I would be very interested to hear from any one who has seen or has evidence of this happening, not just documented or hear say but real evidence. Thank you.

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by James McAdder

22nd July 2013, at 14:04:24

Mr Elliot,

Your post reads like you deliberately run cats over. It is certainly the impression I got, and I assume Lee Majors did too.

Regarding mink. These are a much bigger menace than cats and have been responsible for the decimation of a lot of our native wildlife, water voles in particular. Mink are voracious predators and, unlike domestic cats, their lives depend on being successful hunters.

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by Mr Elliott

22nd July 2013, at 13:52:16

For those who want to compare what the island looks like now with the 1930s.
Use google earth and show historical imagery. It only goes back to 1945, but close enough.

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by Mr Elliott

22nd July 2013, at 13:44:58

@Lee Majors
What is disturbing about my comment? It contains a fact, and a quote from the above story.
I have read the house rules and have broken none.

What I do find disturbing is the ignorance of most cat owners. Cats are predators. All cat owners should be responsible for thier cats.
I am aware that some people are responsible cat owners, but it is a small minority.
Just a simple bell on the collar is a good start. I see 10-20 cats roaming around here every day, and none have bells. There are feathers and a piece of wing in my garden now, and this is a regular occurance.

So much fuss was made when some idiots released a load of mink, but letting cats roam round killing what they please seems to be fine.

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by James McAdder

22nd July 2013, at 13:17:10

In 1930 the population of the IW was 82,000. It is now around 140,000. In 1930 most did not have cars, now most families have at least one, often two (or more ).

Those extra 58,000 people have to live somewhere, and they need roads to drive on.

Perhaps those complaining about "concrete and tarmac " might like to give up their vehicles and/or downsize to smaller accommodation?

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by Christine Fenton

22nd July 2013, at 13:03:55

We are very lucky as we have 4 different Squirrels come into our garden and one of them is a baby. It is lovely to watch the baby squirrel running about under the trees and chasing little birds away. As I am writing there is one in garden now eating away at the nuts.

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by Mike Crowe

22nd July 2013, at 11:07:11

"""say 1930 to present day, to see how it has changed to the colour of concrete and tarmac"""

and we have people saying build build build :-(

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by alan naylor

22nd July 2013, at 02:04:35

You do all know all these birds and animals were living in the country first before you all desided to move there and build homes d ont blame the buzzards or the cats or the badgers the road kill comment says it all

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by Tim Brayford

21st July 2013, at 21:35:48

Thanks Graham, I shall enjoy watching the Badger videos

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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