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As mentioned in our two previous blogs there are several projects throughout the UK that are helping to remove invasive species here are some successful projects over the years and projects that are working to remove invasive species from the UK.

Ruddy Ducks first brought to the UK in the 1930s and 40s for captive wildfowl collections but escaped these collections in the 50s. The individuals that escaped formed a wild population of approximately 6,000 birds. As this population grew there was an increased amount of sightings in mainland Europe, where they started to hybridise with the native White-headed duck.

This hybridisation threatens the small population of White-headed ducks as the offspring from this are fertile and the hybridised population would show more ruddy ducks traits as they breed more readily. This was quickly seen as an issue and that control needed to done before the ruddy duck population was allowed to grow any larger.

The UK supported the largest population of wild Ruddy Ducks, it was deemed vital to reduce the population here to stop the spread across mainland Europe. This initial project failed due to a lack of control effort and understanding off the population ecology of Ruddy Ducks.

In 2003 a new eradication project started as safeguard the white-headed duck, due to an increased understanding of the species the population was reduced from 6000 to 100 individuals in 2011 and is now considered extinct as a birding population in most of the UK with only a few breeding pairs remaining and control efforts continuing to act if any individuals are reported.

Nutria or coypus is a large rodent originally from South America and accidently escaped from farms in the UK, the damage they can do was well known so a campaign started in 1932 that initially failed due to as trapping effort was inadequate and more information is needed for it to be successful. A long term study looking at the population was done and a new eradication campaign was started in 1981 which was successful and only 3 males were found between 1987 and 1989.

Signal crayfish were intentionally introduced in the 1970s so they could be harvested for shops and restaurants but quickly became established in the wild. They became a successful invasive species as the produce a large amount of offspring and and eat almost anything. Like grey squirrels they carry a disease that is fatal to the native species but doesn’t effect them.

To help protect the native white-clawed crayfish several projects have been set up including one by Bristol Zoo who help monitor wild crayfish by engaging landowners and managers, establishing a captive breeding programme to supplement the wild populations, run education programmes highlighting the threats and control programme to remove the signal cray fish.

Grey Squirrels were introduced to the UK in the 1800s and since the ban on releasing grey squirrels there have been several projects controlling the population. One successful project was the removal of grey squirrels from Anglesey. The red population on this island declined in the 1980s due to the increase of grey squirrels found, and by 1997 the red squirrel population was down to approx. 40 individuals. This reduction in numbers prompted the control of greys and reintroduction of reds. The majority of the work was done by volunteers who managed the release and monitored them once they were in the wild. When the trapping intensity increased to remove the last of the grey squirrels several contractors were employed to trap across the island. Both volunteers and contractors also raised awareness of red squirrels conservation, this encouraged community engagement, which started a now well established supplemental feeding for reds and reporting of sightings.

Overall the project took over 18 years and over one million pounds for the island to be declared grey free. However this project has left a strong and lasting legacy with reds crossing the border onto mainland Wales and the spring board to start new projects to reduce the grey population in mainland Wales.

In the past eradications projects have been more successful on islands, this is due to a smaller area to manage and can maintain the boundaries. With improvements in technology and strategies eradicating pests from larger islands and continental areas are now more feasible.

Things you can do to help prevent the spread of invasive species are

  • Join a local action group – List of ones in your area can be found here
  • Check, Clean and Dry
    • Any clothing or equipment that has been used in water
  • Be plant wise
    • Choose the right plants for your garden
    • Keep those plants in your garden and don’t plant them in the wild or allow them to grow in the wild
    • Dispose of your unwanted plants, roots, seeds and seed heads responsibly
  • Take care of your pets
    • Don’t allow them to escape or release into the wild
      • They could harm wildlife
  • Look out for alert species and report any sightings
    • Where to report them can be found here
    • Or any sightings of Grey and Red squirrels can be reported to us here