The Wildlife Trusts warn today
that, without increased human intervention, the UK's red squirrels face near-extinction in
the next decade.
A report, Red or Dead, released by The Wildlife Trusts today reveals that, without
continued help from groups like The Wildlife Trusts, the native red squirrel (Sciurus
vulgaris) could be lost from mainland England by 2010. Meanwhile population strongholds in
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland find themselves under increasing pressure from
competition with the introduced grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).
Red squirrels disappeared from Warwickshire in the early 1960's, having been completely
replaced by grey squirrels.
American grey squirrels were introduced into the UK in the 19th century, and since then
their numbers have grown to 2.5 million animals. Meanwhile, red squirrels have suffered
dramatic losses. Having once been common throughout the UK, they have vanished from almost
all of England and have lost more than half their range in the last 50 years.
In common with other UK wildlife the future of the red squirrel is threatened by many
factors, including habitat loss. But the continuing success of the introduced grey
squirrel remains a major threat to the red's survival - the report states that once greys
become established in an area red squirrels can be expected to die out within just 15
The Wildlife Trusts are at the forefront of national efforts to save the red squirrel
and are active in all red squirrel areas, supporting existing populations with the hope
that they will one day be able to expand.
Dr Simon Lyster, Director General of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
"Red squirrels are going to continue to decline towards extinction unless urgent
action is taken. But it's not yet too late. If government, land managers and
conservationists make a concerted effort, we might just be able to tip the balance back in
the red squirrel's favour."