The grey squirrel has been identified as the main threat to the future survival of the red squirrel in mid Wales.
To ensure the survival of the red squirrel, it is imperative that there is a programme of sustained grey squirrel control within the mid Wales red squirrel focal area, with a target of eradication of grey in the core zone and constant control effort within the buffer. Corridors of likely encroachment into the core zone, such as the broadleaved habitat found in the Cothi valley, should be targeted in particular.
In Autumn 2014, the MWRSP set up a Trap Loan Scheme, an approach to grey squirrel control that has been tried and tested by other red squirrel conservation projects in the UK.
The project aims to engage as many people living in the focal area as possible in trapping activity. In the long term, we hope that a culture of grey squirrel control will become embedded in the local communities of the mid Wales focal area, enabling a suitable and stable environment for the red squirrel to prosper.
The MWRSP has previously tested the best approach to grey squirrel control via two large grants (one from Environment Wales and one from the Welsh Government 2012 ERD grant) which allowed the Partnership to run significant, but time-limited, pilots.
These pilots used contractor labour, supported by volunteer surveys to map squirrel activity and to test the principles and logistics of landscape-scale grey squirrel control in mid Wales.
Although these control projects were successful in their aims, eradicating several hundreds of grey squirrels in the buffer zone of the focal area, the high cost and labour needed to run such control exercises are prohibitive and can not be sustained; eventually the greys returned.
This work has led the Partnership to our current understanding of the most sustainable and effective way forward in mid Wales, community led grey squirrel control.
Since 2014, thanks to funding from Environment Wales, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) has employed a dedicated Red Squirrel Officer to run the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project with a focus on building capacity in the local community for grey squirrel control.