Hannah Blythyn, Minister for Environment
Grey squirrels are a significant and widely spread invasive non-native species (INNS) in Wales. They adversely affect red squirrel populations through direct competition for food and habitat, by spreading the squirrel pox virus which is lethal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels also affect timber production and the sustainability and condition of wider woodland habitat through bark stripping which can lead to rot, down grading of timber and partial or whole tree death.
Earlier this year, we consulted on a draft Grey Squirrel Management Action Plan (GSMAP) for Wales. This was co- produced by Welsh Government (WG) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) with input from a steering group of stakeholders. A summary of the consultation responses has been published and have been considered in the finalisation of the GSMAP. I would like to thank all those who contributed.
The GSMAP will contribute to the aims of the UK Squirrel Accord which focuses on the management of grey squirrel for the benefit of protecting red squirrels and woodland. It also addresses a commitment in the Woodlands for Wales Strategy and fulfils a requirement of the EU Regulation on invasive alien species to put in place management measures for the eradication, control or containment of listed species of Union Concern.
The objective of the GSMAP is to manage grey squirrel populations in order to reduce their impact on red squirrel populations and on woodland ecosystems and their associated services. The GSMAP sets out actions that can be delivered through a partnership approach between the public, private and voluntary sectors to encourage and assist in grey squirrel population management. It does not propose a pan-Wales cull or the eradication of grey squirrel from Wales.
There remains an ongoing requirement to safeguard red squirrels in Wales as one of our priority iconic species. I am grateful to the Wales Squirrel Forum who published the Red Squirrel Conservation Plan for Wales in 2009 and have since refreshed and re-published it to ensure that conservation effort continues to be properly focused.
The GSMAP fully supports the Red Squirrel Conservation Plan for Wales. The Conservation Plan has a focus for action to protect and enhance the three red squirrel focal sites – Anglesey, Clocaenog and mid-Wales – and maintain breeding populations of red squirrels. The Conservation Plan includes elements of grey squirrel management within the focal sites and adjacent buffer areas, owing to the combined impact of competition and disease on red squirrel populations. It is important that the plans for both red and grey squirrels complement each other in order to maximise the benefit to red squirrel conservation and promote existing best practice developed for grey squirrel management. However the GSMAP encompasses a wider remit in recognition of the impact of grey squirrels on woodland as a habitat and as a natural resource, therefore the two plans remain separate.
The Wales Squirrel Forum (WSF), who already helps steer the delivery of the Red Squirrel Conservation Plan for Wales, will be adapted to act as a steering group to co-ordinate, support and provide advice on the implementation of the GSMAP.
The Grey Squirrel Management Action Plan for Wales can be accessed at the following link:-
The Red Squirrel Conservation Plan for Wales is available on the Natural Resources Wales website, who act as the secretariat for the Wales Squirrel Forum, at the following link:-