European Squirrel Initiative the Pine Marten – a position?

The European Squirrel Initiative (ESI) has been actively involved in the potential role of the pine marten to control grey squirrels for a number of years. It was one of the early funders of Emma Sheehy’s work and. It it has watched with interest the developments within Ireland and Scotland with interest.

The European Squirrel Initiative ESI is a broad churchwith the common aim of controlling grey squirrels in order to protect our trees, parks and woodlands as well as other flora and fauna forests and woodland ecosystems from one of the world’s worst alien invasive species (IUCN). This will benefit many species but, notably, will stop the local extinctions of our native red squirrel and allow the reds to recolonise their range in Britain., ultimately leading to the increase and spread of red squirrels.

ESI supporters include foresters, landowners, conservationists, tree lovers and scientists. Within ESI there is a spread of opinion as to the potential benefits of the reintroduction of pine martens for the purpose of reducing grey squirrel numbers. ESI has always taken the view that its position will be guided by evidence and science and to that end it organised a symposium on the 14thof June 2016 in London at which a range of scientists gave presented their views.

The views and current research presented expressed by those scientists varied and were was not conclusive. While There is evidence which does suggest that grey squirrel populations are affected by pine marten. However, there was no definitive indication as to why this should happen. Whilst there is evidence that There is no evidence that pine marten eat grey squirrels (and red squirrels), there is no evidence that they are large predators of the grey or that their presence scares the grey squirrels from colonising or breeding. Nevertheless, or indeed that they are frightened by them, but evidence shows that grey numbers do decline when pine marten populations and red squirrel populations reach a certain level. In addition, it It was recognised that pine martens may have an impact in certain circumstances based on local conditions or as carriers of disease. It was also recognised that pine martens may have a negative impact on other flora and fauna such as wild birds, poultry or game.

There was also some concern that as pine martensare heavily protected there must be mechanisms in place to control populations should they get out of control or if there is a “problem animal” that is causing become to cause significant collateral damage. The mechanism must be simple to apply and quickly invoked.

Therefore, the current position Wwithin ESI is that there is enthusiasm for the potential role of pine martens to reduce grey squirrel numbers. Hhowever this is was tempered with a view that at the moment there was is insufficient scientific evidence to show why grey squirrel numbers were are reduced and that there is the possibility of collateral damage and other consequences from widespread release of pine martens.

It became clear from the symposium that There was a consensus that pine martensare were not going to be suitable in all circumstances particularly where but only when the correct geographical and woodland are unsuitable for pine marten survival. features were present and it was appropriate to have sufficiently high numbers of pine marten present.

However, ESI would support further releases of pine marten on a local and specifically targeted basis providing adequate protocols and controls are in place to enable the researchers and landowners to control problem animals

If ESI were to have a position, encompassing all the views, it might be the following:

ESI recognises that pine marten, do, in certain circumstances, reduce grey squirrel numbers

At the moment the evidence doesn’t tell us why this is the case

If pine marten are to play a role it must be on a selective and targeted basis in certain geographical areas

ESI would support further “trials” on a local and specifically targeted basis

Controls MUST be in place to enable landowners and others to control grey squirrels numbers

Further trial work needs to be done to ascertain why it is that pine martins affect grey squirrel numbers

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