Local conservation enthusiast Robert Piller offers his formula for re-wilding the Tywi Forest.
Y cadwraethwr lleol Robert Piller yn cynnig ei syniadau am droi Coedwig Tywi yn wyllt unwaith eto.
Given what we now know, it seems obvious to me that a good way forward for dealing with greys and conserving reds would be to have well-protected sites within their remaining localities, where red squirrels could have a disturbance-free existence. Nowadays red squirrels in mid Wales are usually confined to Forestry Commission (Natural Resources Wales) land where disturbance from felling and other operations can have their detrimental effects on already struggling populations.
Within these sites, or at least very nearby to them, pine marten reintroduction programmes could be established. (And they are being, by the Vincent Wildlife Trust! See pine marten article – Eds.) Pine martens are known to kill greys, whereas the nimbler and lighter reds are more able to make their escape, and as a result, pine martens will completely drive the greys out, even from where they've been established for decades. None of this messy and unnecessary culling that so often goes hand in hand with red squirrel conservation; a simple clean and effective way of dealing with the problem reds have had to face for all too long. Ideally, once the threat from the greys has subsided, native trees would be left in the protected areas and any non-natives such as Sitka spruce could be felled out or ring-barked; apart from this odd bit of management now and again, red squirrels could be guaranteed being left free from disturbance within these small areas.
This kind of thinking should not be confined to squirrels of course. River systems have benefited from re-wildling too, with willows being planted, pollarding, and log-pile creation for otter conservation. And, as a result, that other invasive species, the American mink has shown a similar decline, with water voles often following in the wake of otter re-colonisation. Projects like these could have untold benefits with simple and very non-intensive interactions on our part.