In 1876 a Victorian banker named Thomas Brockle brought a pair of grey squirrels back with him from a business trip to America to his home in Cheshire. It soon became fashionable in the Victorian upper classes for have Grey Squirrels in your back garden. From Brockle’s original pair, the population exploded, much to the detriment of the native UK red squirrels.

Contrary to what many people believe, the greys don’t actually kill the red squirrel - however they're carriers of the squirrel pox virus. The virus develops in a similar way to myxomatosis (an infectious and usually fatal viral disease in rabbits) and while the greys are resistant to the virus themselves, it remains deadly to the native red squirrel. The greys are also a much stronger species and have a wider diet than the reds. Greys can stomach unripened seeds and nuts, which means that trees are stripped of all available food before native reds can get to them. Today the quantity of grey squirrels is estimated to be around five million while the reds have dwindled to but 150,000. For each one red squirrel per hectare of land, there's estimated to be eight greys.

Red vs Grey Squirrel

However, some groups are attempting to turn back the tide. Thanks to the labour of dedicated red squirrel conservationists within the North of England there has finally been a population increase in this beloved mammal after years of decline. For the first time since the records began, a study confirmed that red squirrel numbers in 294 woodland sites within the region were up by 5% in the Autumn of 2013 by comparison with the previous Spring. It may seem like a small increase; however it is considered a major one because it confirms that the conservationists’ strategies are proving effective. One of the most important tools conservationists have used is a FLIR Scout thermal imaging camera.

“Our FLIR Scout cameras are an amazing facilitate in tracking grey squirrels,” explained Jerry Moss, one of 3 rangers with the Penrith and District Red Squirrel group, whose work is focussed within the Whinfell Forest in Cumbria; he's also a trustee of the charity. “We can see the animals from a distance and can therefore shoot them with an air gun swiftly and cleanly.”

Before investing in the FLIR Scout thermal cameras, the Penrith & District Red Squirrel group and it’s the conservation teams relied only on sight and instinct to track down the greys; not a simple task in the forest canopy or floor. What is more this work has got to be done throughout daylight hours as all squirrels are diurnal.

“We read about thermal imaging within the media and on various shooting forums and it seemed to be the ideal detection method,” Jerry Moss continued. “FLIR allowed us to try one before we bought it. Obviously as a charitable operation we have to minimise our costs as we exist only through donation and sponsorship. The FLIR Scout wasn’t the cheapest but, nevertheless, it had important features that made it the best choice for our needs.”

The FLIR Scout Handheld Thermal Camera makes tracking wildlife a much easier task because it is able to monitor the woodland far ahead, picking up any heat source.

As well as the compact style of the FLIR Scout series, Jerry Moss also cited the camera’s distinctive InstAlert™ feature as a reason for purchase. This colours the hottest components of the thermal image red, so it is very straightforward to pinpoint an animal within the overall scene.

FLIRs Instalert Feature

Jerry moss explained: “InstAlert™ really pulls your eye to the target, you don’t have to think about it. you simply stop and scan – any heat source in the field of view is immediately visible. I have to say I feel naked without my FLIR camera now!”

His colleague, Christian Bensaid, who has just completed his 1st year as the red squirrel ranger for Ullswater is equally enthusiastic: “The FLIR Scout has been a huge aid to me personally and has certainly changed the stakes. The wooded terrain on the fell sides of Ullswater isn't the easiest to stalk or monitor. You’ve got to observe carefully where you put each step when you are walking off the beaten track – and in all weathers!

When he started work at Ullswater, it had been clear that the non-native grey had infiltrated the valley and even more worryingly, reds were seldom being seen. However, due to the endeavours of all concerned, this situation is already changing and reds are evident once more. There’s still an excellent deal of work to be done but to safeguard the red squirrels that have managed to hold on to their territory.

Such is the importance of thermal imaging in the fight to save lots of the red squirrel that the combined conservations teams have currently created a written guide to mistreatment the technology for wildlife tracking.

“There isn't any doubt our FLIR Scout cameras have dramatically improved our ability to hunt out and remove grey squirrels. we couldn’t be as effective without them,” Jerry Moss concluded.

To find out more about FLIRs systems, see the range of Thermal Cameras click here, or call 01949 836 990 Monday - Friday, 8:30 - 5:00 to discuss FLIR Thermal Cameras with our technical staff. We can answer any question you may have about the FLIR range. Call now to take advantage of our market leading prices on the latest ranges.



Posted in FLIR By

Joe Marshall