Here is a pdf of our latest newsletter to bring you up to date.
Isle of Wight home owners with gardens, and land owners with woodland areas are being invited to participate in a significant project to map the habitat of the Isle of Wight’s iconic red squirrel.
Helen has already completed a survey of the Island’s larger areas of woodland. She is now looking to complete the survey by adding detail from smaller woodland and garden areas – which is where the Island’s inhabitants can get involved. They are now being asked to contact Helen to arrange for her to undertake a survey of their garden or woodland. As a rough guide, gardens measuring one acre or more will be surveyed – although smaller gardens in a row could also make a significant difference if they contain a number of larger trees.
Although this part of the project will take longer to complete it will provide vital information about existing habitat corridors or “squirrel highways” that enable red squirrels to travel from one larger habitat to another. It will also identify areas that would benefit from tree planting and further habitat creation.“The aim is to learn more about the way red squirrels use our landscape and get a rough estimate of ‘carrying capacity’, that is, the number of red squirrels that trees can provide a home and food for,” Helen explained.
“This study will show us where there are gaps in corridors or places that would benefit from tree planting in order to enhance wildlife habitat and the landscape in general.”Anyone with a suitable area of land they are willing to have surveyed is being invited to contact Wight Squirrel Project. The tree species and any squirrel activity on the land will be recorded as well as the site’s location in relation to habitats within the wider landscape.
“I have already had a great response from people wanting to have areas surveyed as part of the project,” Helen said.Helen carried out a similar project in 1991 which helped identify gaps left in the habitat after trees were destroyed in the 1987. Since then, tree planting to extend woodland cover plus planting corridor links saw a great improvement in red squirrel habitat and numbers rose.
You may have spotted the bright road signs across the Island, asking drivers to slow down to avoid killing precious red squirrels.
The Isle of Wight Red Squirrel Trust and Wight Squirrel Project sponsored 30 signs around the Island in road kill blackspots. The Island is fortunate to have red squirrels as the Solent provides a barrier to the American grey squirrels who have largely replaced our native red squirrels across the UK mainland.
Unfortunately some of the road signs have disappeared and presumably been stolen! Some of the official signs were stolen as well so is someone collecting them? The charity’s Chair, Helen Butler MBE said:
‘We were delighted with the modern, eye-catching style of these signs and grateful to Kate Northover for designing them for us. Our research shows that at least 97 red squirrels were killed on Island roads in a year from July 2016 to July 2017.
Sadly, traffic is one of the main threats to our red squirrel population. Our charity relies on dedicated volunteers and fundraising to keep afloat and we are disappointed that the signs have gone.’
Helen would like to thank all those people who took the trouble to pick up dead squirrels from the road so she could carry out post mortems on them.
A lot has been learned and the tissue samples taken for DNA analysis have been very informative too. Sadly due to work overload and the closing of labs, Helen is unable to take anymore road kills. Again, many thanks to all those who have contributed to science by picking up squirrel bodies from Isle of Wight roads.
The easiest and most efficient way to offer financial help is to become a Friend of the Red Squirrel and set up a standing order with a donation.
We also need volunteers to help us with walks, events and delivering newsletters. Please contact us if you can help.
Feeding red squirrels helps their survival and provides hours of entertainment for you.
They need a variety of food, not just peanuts. Hazelnuts, filberts, pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut and fruit will provide a varied and healthier diet. NEVER feed brazil nuts or fatballs!
Peak activity times are dawn and dusk all year. Squirrels react to sound and movement, so stand still and keep quiet.
Where gardens back onto woods, squirrels are often fed and can be spotted as they travel to and from the garden.