Anglesey Red Squirrels

Anglesey Red Squirrels

Anglesey Red Squirrels











Anglesey Menai Straits Woodland


January 4th 2011

When I think of inbreeding I think of Chinless Wonders, donkey guffaws and inappropriate observations about the peasantry.

I hadn’t realised that the scientists had considered Anglesey's Rusty Squirrels to be ... well, Chinless Wonders.

”How on earth could they propose such a thing?” I hear you ask.

To be fair to Dr Craig Shuttleworth and his colleagues of the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project, their intentions are not quite so insulting to our wonderful little critter friends as it first seems.

Reflect back a few years to 2002 and you’ll remember that Anglesey only had a few Reds, and they were based at Mynydd Llwydiarth at Pentraeth.

Inbreeding in small populations can lead to birth deformities and a dangerous susceptibility to disease.

I believe that analogies were made that these isolated critter cousins were ignoring decent social mores and ‘covering each other’ ... Like.

The Red Squirrel Project intervened in time, it is hoped. Otherwise each family group would have been as confusing as a Neighbours Plotline. As the Late & Great Kenny Everett used to assert.


Dr Shuttleworth and his colleagues have been busy collecting hair samples from trapped and squirrel road kill, over a hundred samples so far. These samples have been sent away to Edinburgh University to be DNA tested to establish the general genetic health and wellbeing of the various Anglesey populations.

The recently established Anglesey colonies are to be found at Newborough Forest, Plas Newydd and near Beaumaris. Again, Pentraeth being the original colony of putative inbreds.

Did you know that the human genetic pool in the United Kingdom was improved in the late 19th Century by the invention of the bicycle.

I am writing about those days when it was a very rare event for people to leave their own square mile when each community was an island unto itself.

The fact that you have a chin at all can be attributed to the invention of said bicycle. So don’t mock the squirrels too much.


It is also hoped that group genetic characteristics of the individual colonies will be revealed. This will offer useful indicators of migration between each colony as well. You’ll remember from other reports here that Red Squirrels have also been found in Treborth Woods on the mainland.

It’ll be interesting to find out whether these are unique indigenous colonies or the odd migration from Anglesey.

It is thought that there about 150 adult squirrels on Anglesey. At this early stage it is an ideal time to collect genetic information about our little squirrel buddies.

This will present base-line data to compare with for management and intervention of colonies should future DNA testing reveal a narrow set of genes.

Should such an eventuality reveal itself then healthy males and females can be introduced from indigenous Red Squirrels populations elsewhere in the United Kingdom.


You know how Whale Watchers are able to identify Wales from the unique set of marks on their dorsal or tail fins. Dr Craig Shuttleworth and his colleagues have been collecting hair from the red squirrels and cutting their lovely bushy tails in a unique individual fashion so that they can be identified easily in the field. Or, Woods to be correct.

I am delighted by the success of the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project and acknowledge the hard work and scientific rigour of their endeavours.

You lot are Brilliant. Happy New Year to You All.

Lastly, if you have any news to share or observations to make then use the links on this page. CLICK HERE

May I also encourage you to access the SQUIRRELCAM on my Anglesey Webcams Page.

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Tuesday 30th June 2010

If there was an Award for Best And Most Conscientious Breeding Award, then look away from that tranche of society who always get the worst deal. Instead, think small, rusty red, bushy tail and engaging, cute mannerisms.

I’ve already mentioned that the tall canopy of Plas Newydd broad leaved trees is the most recent residence of Anglesey’s wonderful red squirrels. Well today, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales and his missus, The Duchess of Cornwall, whiled away a lovely afternoon inspecting the squirrel’s habitat and spending quality time in their company.

Prince Charles is the Patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust that introduced the Reds to the Marquess of Anglesey’s estate on the Menai Straits. The estate is now owned by the National Trust though the current Marquess resides there like the squirrels.

I believe that these are indigenous British reds from Wildwood in Kent and the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay - unlike their Belgian cousins now well-settled at Newborough Forest and adding their genetic material (frantically) at Llwydiarth Pentraeth.

Ironically, it’s the number of red squirrel road deaths that indicates an increased population of around 300 healthy and fecund squirrels and squirellettes.

The Reds are located at two sites on the Plas Newydd estate. In the woodland on the western edge of the estate’s gardens and at a location within 300m of the main house. This means that the thousands of visitors to the National Trusts Plas Newydd Estate have an excellent opportunty to spot these busy little critters.

It was also a wonderful opportunity for the volunteers and experts of Anglesey Red Squirrel Project to meet Prince Charles and be congratulated for their champion endeavours and success.

The Red squirrel is moving closer to becoming an established species on Anglesey that will hopefully become part of the wallpaper of our Island’s beauty.

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Bad and Sad news to share with you all. It appears that the number of Anglesey Red Squirrels being killed on Anglesey road has risen by over 500% over the last year.

I know that I’m playing the media statistical game here; nonetheless, the reported figure of 11 road deaths over the past 12 months is causing concern for those committed to the wellbeing and success of the growing red squirrel population on the Island. The road deaths have occurred on the roads in the Pentraeth and Newborough Project area, where the main projected populations reside.

In previous years the reported figure has been about 1 or 2. The increase in the reporting of deaths may well be due to the increasing knowledge and awareness of the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project. It is also very likely that the figures are an under-reporting of actual deaths.

In a report in the Daily Post on Friday June 11 2010, Dr Craig Shuttleworth - of the above project – indicated that the Anglesey Red Squirrel has no divine right to avoid the fate that befall many other animals on country roads.

Although their natural environment is the high woodland canopy, these non-indigenous Island squirrels venture across busy public roads as they move about, or explore their near environment.

You may well have noticed regular road-kill spots on country roads and especially on the newer roads. Animals have regular routes by which they traverse their territories and when a new road is cut across that route then the poor little bleeders become victims of human progress.

You may also have noticed that the only way to kill a crow with a car is to come at it round a corner. They just cannot get off the ground quick enough. Such a spot of flat crows can be found at Treiorwerth near Bodedern.

Dr Shuttleworth proposed that the rising number of squirrel deaths on roads is an indication of the growing population, which is thought to number around 300 individuals between Mynydd Llwydiarth and Newborough Forest.


Dr Shuttleworth says that other local authorities and the Highways Agency have acknowledged the significance of these deaths by stringing rope bridges that allow the Red Squirrels to cross safely above the roads between separate areas within the general population area.

Dr Shuttleworth went on to add that it is a solution that he and the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project have previously sought to bring to the attention of the Island authorities. Sadly, he has had no success in manifesting this simple solution.

I have three requests of you, as ever requested with enormous respect,

  • If you spot the body of one of these lovely creatures sadly distended over a particular piece of Anglesey roadway then get in touch with Dr Shuttleworth to report it. The telephone number is 07966 150847.

  • Write to the local authority here on Anglesey at: Planning Department, The Isle of Anglesey County Council, Llangefni, Anglesey, LL77 7TW.

  • Contact me here on this or any other matter and I’ll pass the information on to those who matter
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    Anglesey Red Squirrel Project

    Snapshot taken from Red SquirelCam


    I can’t quite get my head around it or visualise it. Swimming Squirrels!

    But I have already mooted on this page that Anglesey squirrels made their way to the Vaynol Estate on the Caernarfonshire (Arfon) side of the Menai Straits by swimming across. Hmm...

    Anglesey Menai BridgeAdmiral Lord Nelson regarded this particular stretch of the Menai Straits as being the most treacherous of waters.

    In fact, Lord Paget, fourth son of the First Marquess of Anglesey, built a commemorative statue to his hero below the Britannia Bridge because of this navigational hazard.

    Therefore, I can’t quite see any marine activity by anything but the dimmest of squirrels.

    For every one to make it across about 20 would end up either drowned or hunting puffin on Puffin Island off Penmon.

    Anyway, back to the story, another lovely bit of news about Anglesey’s Red Squirrels.

    From six red squirrels introduced to the Plas Newydd Estate by the bank of the Straits in 2008, we now have a happy little band of twenty.

    I understand that it’s the broadleaved woodland along the Straits and in the Plas Newydd Estate that has proven to be the perfect habitat for Red Squirrels.

    Indeed, their brothers and sisters on Anglesey also thrive in broadleaved woodlands.

    In a report in the Daily Post by Hywel Trewyn on April 20th 2010, Jane Richardson, Property Manager at Plas Newydd said:

    “We are so excited that the red squirrels are happy in their new home. Six squirrels were brought here in Oct 2008, held in woodland enclosures for a few weeks, and released into the deciduous woodland. They bred successfully, and animals can now be found throughout the estate, and have even crossed the Menai Strait.

    “It’s also good that Plas Newydd is open to the public so it’s somewhere where local people and visitors alike will have a great chance of seeing wild reds. People have already reported that they’ve seen the red squirrels in the garden and we intend to set up a reporting area in the summer house.”

    I am an advocate of the theory concerning zealous broadening of territory supported by a volunteer’s car. Impugning character is not my game; however ...

    There again, the Plas Newydd Estate lies right by the Britannia Bridge and it has an empty corridor from one side to the other. I can well imagine these cute critters bounding amiably across with amorous intent.

    Let’s leave that imagery at the Chocolates and Flowers stage.

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    I’m not a supporter of the National Assembly for Wales and I tend to regard it an expensive tier of government that seeks to punch above its weight. But that’s enough of that.

    Occasionally, though, I have to admit that they seem to get something right. This week, for instance, the Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones AM (‘Badger Cull Queen’) and Jane Davidson AM, Assembly Planning Minister declared its intention to ensure ‘focal sites’ where Red Squirrels and their endangered colonial Grey cousins should be kept separate.

    Scan further down this page for more briefing on the above species-apartheid. I have chosen to reports and also to play Devil’s Advocate role you just might notice.

    Jane Davidson stated that ‘urgent strategic action is needed in these areas’. The areas in question are Anglesey, Clocaenog near Rhuthun and in small woodland areas in mid-Wales.

    However, what does this mean? A re-jigging of an existing Quango’s remit without money to back a new political initiative. Environment Agency Wales know all about this. It could be accused of being an ambulance-chaser. They prosecute at the drop of a hat and seek punitive financial penalties, which is one way to finance your activities.

    Did you Know: If you do a spellcheck on the word ‘Quango’ the word ‘Guano’ comes up.

    I’m not sure where the money’s coming from. It may even be just a re-jigging of existing responsibilities and a new definitive description will appear as legend on a Map Key indicating: Here be Red Squirrels


    The Countryside Council for Wales is seeking to enact an European Union Directive in Squirrel-Central in Newborough Forest on Anglesey.

    Following through with the Directive’s dictates would see hundreds of trees being cut down. It is described as a thinning of the forestry; however, I understand that about 35% of the forestry needs to go.

    The Friends of Anglesey Red Squirrels welcome this initiative by the Assembly but fear that the Countryside Council for Wales could undermine any positive outcomes by putting the Newborough Reds under pressure.

    Discussions between the CCW and the Forestry Commission appear to be in stasis while a solution is sought to address the concerns of those opposed to the proposed managed deforestation.

    Some Squirrel Buddies believe that it was their intervention over the past five years that has stopped what they believe would have been the bulldozing through of a directive that was entirely inappropriate to Newborough Forest.

    It could well be that smart Anglesey people discovered that the CCW were surreptitiously seeking to carry out the deforestation without anybody noticing. After all, it's a tick in a box somewhere.

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    Anglesey Red Squirrel Project

    Snapshot taken from Red SquirelCam


    Whenever the Grey Squirrel encroaches on the territory of their Red cousins then it is only a matter of time before the latter are out-competed for food and dispatched by disease.

    The Red Squirrel were doing quite nicely from about 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. That is, until the Grey was introduced to the United Kingdom around the beginning of the twentieth century.

    The Grey was brought in from the United States and unlike their later human compatriots they did not bring chewing gum and nylons. Instead, they brought Parapoxvirus along with them. They themselves were impervious to the virus while their Red cousins swiftly succumbed.

    The indigenous species clearly cannot survive in the presence of the Grey. So it is only by creating isolating packages of territory that it can survive.

    This is bad news for the Grey because populations have to be culled to achieve this end. Previous habitat monitoring and management has always ended in eventual failure.

    In 1999/2000 there were only between 20 and 30 Reds on Anglesey; they were on the brink of exinction here on the Island.

    MENTER MON (Anglesey Enterprise)

    Once again on my website I must extend my respectful congratulations to this Island agency. By now you will know of their fabulous success in creating the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path; however, their greatest success, I beieve, must be the Anglesey Red Squirrel Project.


    As demonstrated here on Anglesey, it is only a cull of the Grey Suirrel that can guarantee the survival of the Red. Looking across the rest of the United Kingdom, it is highly unlikely that there will be a nationwide cull of the Grey due to limiting financial resources.

    Nonetheless, here on Anglesey we have a successful outcome as the result of a concerted and directed project.

    The previously last colony on Anglesey at Mynydd Llwydiarth near Pentraeth now has a population of around a 100 and they are breeding succesfully.

    The Red is also successfully established in the Newborough Forestry. However, there is now an unexpected threat to their survival because of an intention to remove about 40% of the forest to adhere to an European Union Environmenta Directive.

    I will come back to you with more information on the latest challenge.

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    Do you have important information you want to share?

    We'd love to hear from you.

    Please feel free to contact me to share your news by CLICKING HERE.

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    October 29 2009

    It looks like some of the latest creatures to settle here on Anglesey are already getting itchy feet.

    Dr Craig Shuttleworth from Friends of Anglesey Red Squirrels and his conservation colleagues have discovered that a small number of these squirrels might have set up home on the other side of the Menai Straits at the lovely Treborth Woods and in the Faenol Estate.

    Some of you will know that the Faenol Estate is where the brilliant Bass-Baritone Bryn Terfel conducts his Faenol Music Festival.

    Others may know the estate as the place where the Late Princess Margaret did not give birth to a secret love child.

    Dr Shuttleworth reports excitement among dedicated conservationists at the news and discoveries. He describes it as a massive breakthrough. It appears that the squirrels were caught in traps in the woods and the estate and will now have their DNA checked to find out if they are related to the Anglesey squirrels.

    It’s been decades since these little creatures were seen on the mainland. Their numbers were driven to near extinction by Grey Squirrels who out-competed them for food and seriously depleted their numbers by the Squirrel Pox.

    This is a second chance for the red squirrels whose existence now appears assured because of the 1998 cull that saw 7,000 grey squirrels culled.

    Expanding the Colonies

    It is now hoped that this good news about natural migration indicates that the species is growing in strength and security. Take a look at the map of Anglesey and you’ll realise that it’s about ten miles from Newborough to Menai Bridge and quite a distance from Pentraeth Forest.

    If the DNA tests reveal that they are indeed of the Anglesey Red Squirrel family then we have an intriguing question about how they got over the Menai Straits.

    This is, of course, of secondary importance at the moment because it adds a degree of pleasant momentum to the long-term project by conservationists to expand the population into Gwynedd. Bad news for any Grey Squirrels with long-term ambitions.

    Accentuate the Positive

    People on Anglesey are proud to have two well-established communities in Newborough Forest and in the woodland near Pentraeth. I believe the red squirrels are of Belgian descent.

    I know that there is research into evolved local accents in birds and it would be interesting to discover if they are developing their own unique Anglesey accents. I do worry if they get as far as Caernarfon, because they have some quite unfortunate local speech characteristics.

    There again, it is wonderful news for those conservationists who have spent more than twelve years drawing this species back from the brink of almost total extinction. The only existing colony on Anglesey before recent intervention was at Mynydd Llwydiarth

    Getting to Treborth and Faenol Estate

    If you’re a Newborough red squirrel then the best option is the Number 44 Bus. You could always tag a lift on the Holyhead – London train that travels across Anglesey, passing within half a mile of Newborough Forest.

    For those happy to trek then they will have found a good forestry route along the coast and through Plas Coch and then the Plas Newydd estates. From there it is merely a little trot across the Britannia Bridge. Only one of the lines is in use so there no danger of being run over by the 9:17 to Crewe.

    Maybe someone dropped them there to see what would happen. I don’t believe that anyone really cares - other than the now-endangered Grays.

    Massive News and Major Congratulations

    Congratulations to all those experts and volunteers who have worked very hard to prepare the ground and then establish the successful Anglesey Red Squirrel colonies.

    Again, and as before on the Anglesey Hidden Gem website, an enormous debt of gratitude is owed to Menter Môn, an agency set up to distribute Objective One European support money on Community and Environment projects on Anglesey. The Anglesey Coastal Path being an astonishing success that has opened the Island up to year-around visitors.


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