Volunteers Wanted to Help Support Biodiversity and Conservation at Castlewellan Forest Park
Castlewellan Forest Park is a very important sanctuary for red squirrels, pine martens, otters, red kites and plants, including the fabulous trees in the Annesley Gardens. As part of a National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is looking for volunteers to help with monitoring and observing wildlife in the Park.
To find out more and discover the threats to red squirrels, come along to the Grange in the Park on Saturday 11 May at 2.30pm. Ulster Wildlife’s Red Squirrel Officer will give a free talk on red squirrels and conservation and then take the participants on a guided walk to see if they can spot any.
Like other areas of Great Britain and Ireland, the red squirrel has been under threat from the non-native grey squirrels. Grey squirrels were introduced into the UK, from America, in the mid-1800s by the Victorians. These much bigger squirrels quickly spread, competing with the red squirrel for food and shelter. They also spread the deadly squirrel pox virus to reds which has led to the red squirrel’s decline. In the last 50 years, the red squirrel has almost completely disappeared from most of the UK, declining from around 3.5 million to just 140,000, with less than 40,000 estimated left in Ireland.
Councillor Mark Murnin, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said, ”Red squirrels play a vital role in regenerating our woodlands, burying nuts and seeds, which grow into future trees that sustain a host of native woodland dwellers, such as pine martens and jays, and it was with concern that three grey squirrels were recently removed from the Park.
“This event will highlight the importance of biodiversity in Castlewellan Forest Park. Volunteers will play a vital role in monitoring wildlife to ensure its protection and sustainability for future generations.”
Ulster Wildlife is part of Red Squirrels United, a partnership of academics, practitioners and volunteers, working together on a programme of red squirrel conservation. It launched in 2015 and is focused on conserving red squirrel populations in nine specific areas in Northern Ireland, Northern England and Wales over four years.
Here in Northern Ireland, Ulster Wildlife are working with landowners, local communities and local Red Squirrel groups in four remaining red squirrel strongholds, including the Mournes, Broughshane and Ballygally, Fermanagh and the North West; undertaking habitat management to help red squirrels, education and awareness activities, monitoring squirrel populations and targeted control of grey squirrels in areas where red squirrels are at risk of extinction.
To find out more about red squirrel conservation, how you can help and report sightings, visit www.ulsterwildlife.org/red-squirrels
If you would like to help support conversation and biodiversity in Castlewellan Forest Park, just come along on Saturday 11 May at 2.30pm and inform the Forester at the entrance to the carpark that you are attending the event.