Pine Martens Side with Red Squirrels in Battle for UK Treetops

By Gary Cutlack on at

The poor little besieged UK red squirrel could have an animal ally in the form of the pine marten, thanks to scientists discovering that the marten – a predator of both red and grey flavours of squirrel – is better at hunting out and eating the often hated greys.

Or rather, it's sort of the other way round, as scientists hanging around in the woods have found that the red squirrel seems innately better at sniffing out the presence of the pine marten, and is therefore better placed to hide, run, put on a crow costume, or stay really still, as the predator's vision might be based on movement.

This was discovered by a naturalist team at Queen's University Belfast, which placed pine marten scent on feeders. Only the reds seemed to panic and become hyper-vigilant, with the greys either braver, stupider, or suicidal because they know everyone hates them and these things start to add up. Hence reintroducing greater numbers of pine martens to red/grey squirrel battlegrounds could obliterate grey populations and boost the reds, should any local community groups be in need of a nice project to keep themselves busy through 2020 and beyond. [Queen's University Belfast via BBC]

Image credit: Probably the wrong sort of squirrel