Red squirrels could return to South West in 2019

Laura White
Laura White

Red squirrels could make a comeback to the South West in 2019 – thanks to a new form of contraception for their grey cousins.

Conservationists and a number of land owners, including Prince Charles, wants to help reintroduce them back into some isolated pockets of the region. Conservationist Mish Kennaway says the contraception is “a big part of the future for the balance of the two species”.

He continues: “It’s amazing science, putting a contraception into a cell the size of a protein cell, which then goes into something that’s digestible by grey squirrels. It’s specific because they don’t want to sterilise the entire countryside. Grey squirrels would feed on feeders out in the wild in the woodlands and would be sterilised for two or three years and that quite quickly starts to collapse populations.”

The strategy has already been tried and tested in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire.A major conference at the University of Exeter in April will focus on ways of reducing the grey squirrel population in the South West with the hope of using parts of the region as hubs, from which red squirrels can re-establish.

The conference also aims to develop a national conservation strategy to prevent the red squirrel from dying out altogether.

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