Red squirrel reintroduction on the Lizard

Red Squirrel at Brownsea © National Trust/Peter Reed

Red Squirrel at Brownsea

Latest update 11.09.2013 16:05

The National Trust is committed to conserving red squirrel on its land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland where it is practical to do so.

The proposal for reintroducing red squirrels to West Cornwall is interesting but comes with significant challenges. Grey squirrels carry the Squirrel Pox virus which is deadly to reds but to which the grey is immune. To ensure no red squirrels catch this virus there is a requirement to eradicate all greys from the target area and provide a viable buffer, or quarantine area, in the surrounding countryside including land in multiple occupancy, some of it owned by the National Trust.

We are working closely with many partners to maintain and improve the wildlife and unique habitats on the Lizard such as its heathlands and maritime grasslands which are of national and international significance. These habitats are the current priorities for the Trust and so it is not able to reallocate or commit funds or resources to the proposed reintroduction of red squirrels to the Lizard and West Cornwall, nor be supportive of measures that would conflict with the conservation of those habitats.

The Trust welcomes the collaborative working approach that the CRSP represents and is keen to join the project as part of the stakeholder group.

The Trust acknowledges that its woodland at Penrose and land on the Helford are important parts of the proposal as the project develops beyond the existing areas and subject to agreeing the detail, the Trust could support by access to its land, a viable proposal with strong community and organisational support to ensure its long term success. The Trust recognises both the positive story of the red squirrel reintroduction but also the implications of the eradication of greys from this area and their continued control in perpetuity unless a solution can be found to the Squirrel Pox virus problem. The Trust would require the project to have a proposal which encompassed these issues and which ensured the full support of the local community and all landowners to the process as well as the outcome of the project.

In addition, the Trust would be keen to explore how a long term partnership approach to develop and improve habitats for wildlife in the Helston and Meneage area could work to provide better habitat connectivity in the woodlands from the Helford to Porthleven and so in the future provide improved habitats for all wildlife, including red squirrels.