To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to increase the red squirrel population over the next five years.
The Government is committed to protecting and expanding red squirrel populations and tackling the threats that grey squirrels pose to them. This is a devolved matter. In England, the Forestry Commission works with Natural England and other conservation organisations and projects to help protect red squirrel enclaves and to allow the populations to expand.
The Forestry Commission also undertakes a number of actions to protect red squirrels from the impact of grey squirrels as outlined in the grey squirrel action plan for England. These actions include Countryside Stewardship funding for landowners who choose to help protect red squirrels within designated reserves.
Defra, in partnership with the United Kingdom Squirrel Alliance (UKSA), also provided funding for work by the Animal and Plant Health Agency for the development of a fertility control method for grey squirrels. This research, now in its third year, continues to show promise as one potentially effective method to control grey squirrel numbers in the longer term.