In early September, the Project received a report sighting of a red squirrel from Gwernogle, deep in the Brechfa Forest, a large forest plantation which covers nearly six thousand hectares to the south east of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Focal Site.
Brechfa Forest is the ‘modern’ name for part of the ancient Glyn Cothi Forest. It is steeped in history; there is evidence of the forest being managed by local people since the 6th century. Over the years the forest has been the refuge of Welsh Princes fighting the Norman Invasion, a Royal Hunting Forest, and was a major supplier of timber for the trenches during World War One. As late as the 1980s, Brechfa Forest was known as a red squirrel refuge. However since that time, the reds seem to have disappeared from Brechfa Forest; there has been the odd sighting reported, but there has not been any photographic records of red squirrels in this area for decades.
Due to the lack of recent evidence of red squirrels in the Brechfa Forest, when the three Welsh Focal Sites were created in 2009, this forest did not form part of the Red Squirrel Focal Site in mid Wales.
The project regularly receives reports of red squirrels from outside of the Focal Site that, on closer investigation, turn out to be grey squirrels. However, this sighting came with a photo. When we opened up the photo we were both saddened and excited. The photo was of a red squirrel, but the squirrel was dead. Unfortunately this poor red squirrel had been killed by a cat. This lone red squirrel may be an indication of an extant population of reds in the Brechfa Forest. Sophie, who took the initiative to report the red squirrel on the day that her cat brought in the carcass, has passed the remains on to the Project and we will be sending a hair sample off for of genetic analysis. In the meantime Sophie will be monitoring a series of trail cameras which have been installed around her property, in the hope of finding more red squirrels.