An American bird of prey has been spotted on the Isle of Wight this week prompting new fears for the Isle of Wight’s red squirrel population.

(Main Image: Archive)

The Red Tailed Hawk spotted in Puckpool.
The Red Tailed Hawk spotted in Puckpool.

The bird has returned to the Island after some months away and it is a particular threat, according to the Isle of Wight-based red squirrel expert Helen Butler, because it appears to be targeting gardens where the animals come to feed.

Natural England says it is working with Hampshire Constabulary, although it has no statute of duty to step in.

The Red Tailed Hawk is believed to have escaped from a private collection, where it was housed in a shed for some years, according to Wight Squirrels.

A falconer’s efforts to recapture the bird failed and Hampshire Constabulary says it had previously not been seen since June.

Red squirrel Copyright: geertweggen
Red squirrel Copyright: geertweggen

Red squirrels are native to the UK and are endangered. The Isle of Wight is one of the last few places to see them.

The Red Tailed Hawk may need to be destroyed and Hampshire Constabulary has obtained a licence to shoot it if it is seen in a public area of the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile Helen Butler from Wight Squirrels has some advice for Islanders who like to feed the squirrels but are worried by the sighting:

“Put guards round your feeders. Keep them right off the ground up in the trees. If there’s no other way, don’t feed. It’s better not to feed than make the squirrels a bait for another species.”