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Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Thursday, 14 October 2010 14:53 UK
Rope bridge bid to stop red squirrels becoming roadkill

Two red squirrels at a feeder in Menai Bridge
Red squirrels have crossed from Anglesey to the mainland

Rope bridges over busy roads could be the latest weapon in the battle to ensure the red squirrel's survival on Anglesey.

A combination of eradicating the disease-carrying grey squirrel and breeding reds to release into the wild has helped the native species recover.

Now the mammals are facing another threat as they try to cross roads which cut through their woodland habitat.

"We're having a steady stream of road casualties," said Dr Craig Shuttleworth, red squirrel expert and leader of the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project.

"It's well up into double figures for the last 18 months - and that's only the animal kills we know of."

His proposal is to build rope bridges across woodland roads so the squirrels don't have to descend from tree level to take their chances against vehicles.

SQUIRREL FEEDING TIPS
Use the specific squirrel feeder with a light plywood lid which keeps the food dry and prevents birds from taking the seeds
Place near corridor of trees or hedgerows so the squirrels do not have to come to ground to access the food
Place a few feet off the ground, with easy access for you and the squirrels
Fill with sunflower seeds and hazel nuts

"Red squirrels are very arboreal and if they can get from A to B without coming down to the ground, they will," he said.

"It's been a great success in the north of England and we'd like one in Newborough, between Llyn Parc Mawr car park and the block of woodland. Also, over the road between the woods near Plas Newydd."

Dr Shuttleworth hopes to begin liaising with the Anglesey highways department, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the project's aim to extend the red squirrel population across the island continues.

This week eight squirrels born in captivity in Norfolk will be released into woodlands near Moelfre and Benllech.

"All the squirrels we've released in the past have been from captivity," explained Dr Shuttleworth.

Trial and error

"After a few weeks, we get them to the stage where they no longer like people and eat food found in the wild.

"It might be a bit of trial and error at first, but they've got the ability in them to live in the treetops, build drays and breed."

Another group of squirrels will be released in the Dingle, Llangefni, next year; a final step towards Dr Shuttleworth's dream of the red squirrel becoming a common sight throughout Anglesey's woods and gardens.

"We want red squirrels to become part of the background of all the woodland, parks and gardens of the island," he said. "We want them to become a normal thing to see every day.

He also wants to encourage landowners to plant the right kind of trees, not birch, alder or oak because the seeds are too small and hard for red squirrels.

"They prefer conifers like the Scots pine and hardwoods like the sweet chestnut, hazel, beech and a few cherry and elm," he said.

"We're pushing on an open door, because the landowners and the public all want to see more of the red squirrel."




SEE ALSO
Red squirrels 'thrive on island'
19 Apr 10 |  North west
Red squirrels making a comeback
16 Feb 10 |  Highlands and Islands

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