Wight Squirrel Project
Welcome to the official website of the Wight Squirrel Project - the Isle of Wight's most comprehensive guide to Red Squirrels.
Red squirrels are the only squirrel native to the British Isles. They are disappearing from the mainland fast and are being replaced by the introduced American grey squirrel.
The Isle of Wight is an important stronghold as the Solent provides a barrier to grey squirrels. However a grey does find it’s way to the Island sometimes, so we need to be vigilant. There are contingency plans for dealing with greys that arrive on the Isle of Wight. Not only do grey squirrels outcompete reds, they carry the deadly squirrelpox virus, which is fatal to the reds.
It is illegal to bring a grey squirrel into red squirrel territory. The penalty is 2 years imprisonment or £5,000 fine. It is also illegal to release a grey anywhere, once it is caught.
The Isle of Wight’s woodland can provide habitat for around 3,500 squirrels. Numbers fluctuate annually according to the success or failure of the autumn seed crop. They also fluctuate seasonally when young are born.
Red squirrels on the Island live mainly in broadleaved woodland - which is unique nowadays as greys dominate this habitat on the mainland. The Island is also free of deer, who nibble young shoots and retard regrowth of understorey trees.
What red squirrels need to survive
Trees - Red squirrels not only need trees to live in and feed from but they are essentially an arboreal animal who would prefer to travel via trees rather than the ground. This means that 'corridors', or 'squirrel highways' are very important to them. Tree species preferred by red squirrels are: hazel, wild cherry, sweet chestnut, walnut, Scots pine, Corsican pine and beech.
A grey squirrel free zone - to live in such as the Isle of Wight. The Island is a nationally important stronghold for our fast disappearing native red squirrels.
Support from humans - Many people feed squirrels in their garden. Although squirrels may cost a fortune to feed when they are at their hungriest in the spring and summer and are termed as 'time wasters' because they are charismatic to watch - Red Squirrels are also considered well worth it! Also, we need to continually fight development which encroaches into woodland and over zealous forestry work. It is, I'm afraid very much a case of some you win and some you lose!
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