Man­aged by marten

The Field - - Letters -

The Euro­pean Squir­rel Ini­tia­tive (ESI) wel­comes the UK Squir­rel Ac­cord Ini­tia­tive’s de­vel­op­ment of im­muno-con­tra­cep­tives for grey squir­rels as part of a menu of meth­ods to con­trol and even erad­i­cate them from Bri­tain.

There has been much talk about how the pine marten might af­fect grey squir­rels in Bri­tain and what im­pact they would have on game rear­ing. I was co-leader of a group from ESI to visit two lead­ing sport­ing es­tates in North­ern Ire­land in April 2018 to dis­cuss this with the keep­ers and es­tate own­ers. We vis­ited Lord Ray­mond O’neill at Shanes Cas­tle, County Antrim, and His Grace the Duke of Aber­corn at Baron­scourt, County Ty­rone. Both es­tates have well-es­tab­lished com­mer­cial game shoots with many let days per sea­son.

At Shanes Cas­tle, greys ar­rived about 10 to 12 years ago and pine martens about five years ago. At the height of the prob­lem, some 800 grey squir­rels were trapped per year off 900 acres of wood­land. Since the ar­rival of the pine marten (three to four pairs only), grey squir­rel culling has fallen to about 100 to 200 per year. ESI asked the head keep­ers about what ex­tra mea­sures had been taken around the re­lease pens and the re­ply at both was the same: none.

We asked about pre­da­tion of pheas­ant poults by pine martens and both head keep­ers and the BASC rep­re­sen­ta­tive in North­ern Ire­land said that, “if a pine marten gets into a re­lease pen, it may kill the odd poult, how­ever, if a mink gets in it could kill the lot”. For me, this was clear ev­i­dence that you can have pheas­ants, game shoots, com­mer­cial forestry, red squir­rels and pine martens. Charles Dut­ton, se­nior for­est man­ager,

Pryor & Rick­ett Sil­vi­cul­ture Ltd

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