The Isle of Wight?s red squirrels are at risk of being wiped out, as locals continue to report incidents of the animals being attacked and killed by birds of prey.

Conservationists have long known that a virus carried by introduced American greys often proves fatal to reds, but now the estimated 3,500 reds that live in broadleaved woodland on the island find themselves under attack from birds of prey, as well.

?About three days ago, I had another attack, right on my patio. I couldn?t believe it,? Binstead resident Sheila Hiscock told Shooting Times. ?These are buzzards, there is no mistaking them. I rushed out into the garden and the bird was attacking a squirrel. I don?t know if the bird got the kill or not, as it fl ew off down into the valley, but it probably did get it because I never saw the squirrel again.?

The red squirrel population in the British Isles has declined dramatically recently, with fewer than 140,000 individuals remaining. Around 85 per cent are thought to live in Scotland, but the Isle of Wight is an important stronghold, with the Solent providing a barrier to bigger and bolder greys. Reds are also under threat from cats and dogs, road traffic and poor habitat management.

The rest of this article appears in 12th January issue of Shooting Times.

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