Ensuring a brighter future for our red squirrels

Published: 8 Aug 2014

Author: Fran Foster
Ensuring a brighter future for our red squirrels

Fran Foster, a self-employed red squirrel ranger from North Cumbria, has recently returned from a six week journey in Europe, investigating different approaches to squirrel conservation and management.

Fran's trip, funded by a Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, focussed in particular on public attitudes to wildlife management and the associated conflict resolution. 

Sadly, due to competition from grey squirrels, the native red squirrel is on the brink of extinction in many parts of England and Wales. Introduced grey squirrels in Italy are also causing a relentless regional decline in red squirrel populations.  Fran visited conservation organisations, natural history museums and universities involved in alien species management, schools and youth groups, where her cocker spaniel proved to be a real ice-breaker, paving the way for more open discussion. 

Fran soon realised that everyone has their own ideas about alien species and that it is essential to listen to different opinions and to cooperate with diverse special interest groups with sometimes contradictory values.

In Nervi Park, Liguria, where introduced grey squirrels are causing a relentless regional decline in red squirrel population, local feelings have been running high following a proposed eradication plan.  However, endless patient negotiations have now reached a compromise that seems to please nearly everyone: sterilization and translocation.

Fran says, “The main lesson to bring home and share is that all the different people involved in red squirrel conservation and grey squirrel control, need to openly share results and best practice, ensuring that NGOs and volunteer groups never become exclusive, unrepresentative or unaccountable.”

Thanks to the learning and confidence she has gained from her Fellowship, Fran is developing an educational program designed to enable students to discover invasive species and test innovative monitoring ideas and equipment. Through talks and workshops nationwide Fran is hoping to inspire the naturalists of tomorrow to develop new solutions to long-term issues and conflict resolution within wildlife management.

For further information:

Fran Foster:      [email protected]  

017687 76964