The Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST) has launched a new red squirrel perceptions survey to monitor red squirrel population trends around the UK. It is the first time a national red squirrel survey of this nature has been undertaken and is backed by television presenter and gardener Alan Titchmarsh.
The Red Squirrel Perceptions Survey is a biannual survey that will measure people’s experiences of red and grey squirrel population changes in their areas. It is similar in design to the Consumer Confidence Index, in that it tracks changes in perceptions over time to provide valuable management information. It is open to anyone who lives in a red squirrel area, and gives members of the public the opportunity to contribute their local knowledge to a meaningful national survey. A link to the survey can be found on RSST’s website (www.rsst.org.uk).
Monitoring is an essential part of wildlife conservation, and this survey will sit alongside existing, traditional project monitoring efforts around the UK. RSST is currently assisting the UK Red Squirrel Group (UKRSG) to agree and implement national red squirrel monitoring standards. Detailed, standardised and regular monitoring information is vital for conservationists to assess population changes and define priority areas.
Alan Titchmarsh, who is an Ambassador for RSST, said of the survey, “Everyone involved in red squirrel conservation knows that volunteers and the local community are its backbone, so I am delighted that their observations are to be recorded. I would encourage anyone in a red squirrel area to take part – it only takes a couple of minutes to complete and its findings will be of great value.”
Dr Craig Shuttleworth, RSST’s National Operations Director, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for local people to help scientists better understand red and grey squirrel distributions. RSST’s perceptions survey, and the project monitoring protocols being currently established by UKRSG, will together add up to a revolution in red squirrel reporting.”
Dr Tony Mitchell-Jones of Natural England added, “The perception survey is a widely used technique in both conservation and business. The data collated by RSST’s survey will be a useful barometer of the general public’s perceptions of red and grey squirrel numbers and will serve to underpin the new monitoring standards.”