The Exmoor Squirrel Project 2023
The Exmoor Squirrel Project is a collaboration between ourselves, Red Squirrel South West and Exmoor National Park, funded by the Forestry Commission. We are focusing on a 35km stretch along the North Coast of Exmoor using its landscape as natural barriers. To one side the sea, to the other extensive and vast moorland.
The Aim & Our Role
The project aim is to drive down the invasive population of North American grey squirrels which is having a significant detrimental impact on the health, condition, ecology, regenerative capacity, and productivity of valuable trees, ancient woodlands, and native wildlife in the project area.
We are working with local landowners, communities, wildlife managers, volunteers, academic bodies, and agencies, and are deploying a range of practical, educational, and awareness-raising activities to achieve the aims.
Three Atop’s role any my role in this project is the primary Wildlife and Woodland Management Officer.
We have identified and are working with woodland owners within the project area to develop and implement control plans, carry out woodland surveys, set and deliver realistic targets, report on those targets and continue to monitor sites.
Throughout this process we are identifying skill and knowledge gaps and organising training events for landowners and volunteers who can then take over management of sites in the future.
Using research from various experts including myself Scoping survey of all the woodland to the north of Exmoor – Charles Dutton & Co (Dorset) Ltd, to understand the grey’s behaviors being displayed. Throughout the most recent Autumn and Winter, we have put this research to the test. This proved for us the importance of understanding their behaviors in conjunction with the damage visible in our woodlands. The catch rates doubled after changing tact and getting to the areas where behaviors had shown visible test bark stripping. We will be using these methods and providing training and understanding of our woodlands to all operatives, landowners, volunteers, and the public over the course of the project.
The link for the project can be found here, if you wish to get involved they are looking for Forest schools to join the project.
From traditional sweet chestnut coppice grown on a 14 year rotation (also home to the white admiral butterfly) to undamaged English oak, we have experience of managing all types of silvicultural systems, rotations and objectives to suit a range of management and wildlife aims.
Grey squirrel management
Grey Squirrels destroy more young broadleaf trees in lowland Britain & Ireland than almost any other woodland pest. The damage they do costs the UK forestry industry upwards of £45m/yr. At last, some innovative research is under way into a long term solution. Whilst we wait for that, we can do much to limit their damage and even grow trees which will not be damaged. The key to grey squirrel management is to understand exactly why they damage trees in the first place.
New woodland design
Establishing a new wood can be a life-changing experience, regardless of whether you are a farmer or private estate. You will be creating the landscape of the future and doing your bit for the environment and biodiversity. The Government and the EU have set ambitious targets to combat climate change of net zero CO2 by 2050. The UK has around 13% tree cover against Europe’s 37%, and with thousands of hectares available across the country, there has never been a better time to take advantage of the excellent grants for planting trees. Now is the time to get planting!