Figures published this week show that grey squirrel control is most effective when a combination of trapping and shooting is used.

The results came out after coordinated programmes were carried out in the north of England by three adjoining red squirrel conservation community groups.

There was a combined area of roughly 1,430 square miles, and results showed that over a five month period 72.8 per cent grey squirrels were shot, 25.4 per cent trapped and 1.8 per cent were road casualties.

The figures for shooting rose to an average high of 86.6 per cent in the months of October, November and December with 92 per cent being achieved in one area in November 2016.

Shooting was carried out at fixed points with baited feed stations using air rifles and with full appropriate risk assessments, insurance and strict protocols being in place.

In total 1,500 grey squirrels were removed during the six month period and the work was part of an ongoing red squirrel conservation work carried out by the three groups.

Andy Wiseman, chairman of the European Squirrel Initiative, said: "These figures show how important it is to utilise all the methods at our disposal to control grey squirrels.

"Shooting carried out in a controlled and systematic way is clearly very effective in reducing grey squirrel numbers.

"We must congratulate all those involved in these programmes as it shows what can be done when a systematic, consistent and concerted effort is put in place to control grey squirrels.

"As a result of this work we are significantly reducing the damage to our broadleaved forests and pushing back the grey invasion allowing out native red squirrels to thrive and prosper in this part of England."

Julie Bailey, who collates and produces the statistics from the standardised squirrel recording data, said: "We are very fortunate that Cumbria still has an abundant healthy population of red squirrels living in their natural environment.

"The standardised recording data provides very clear significant evidence that using a combination methodology of both trapping and shooting is the most effective means of clearing areas of the non-native grey squirrels to allow our iconic and genetically unique red squirrels to survive for now and for future generations to enjoy”

"This invaluable work and the work of many other community based red squirrel conservation groups across the UK is carried out without government funding.

"This must be addressed as a matter of urgency as it is the dedicated ‘boots on the ground front line work’ by these community groups that is making the biggest impact in red squirrel conservation.

"Recording data provided by the community groups year on year in the North of England shows that approximately 70% of the overall grey cull is by these groups and without sustainable government funding to support them, the North of England will lose its RED’S”.

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