Impact of mountain bike trails on red squirrel population (Sciurus vulgaris) in Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria
University of Cumbria, Newton Rigg, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0AH, UK
30 Jun 2010
1 Feb 2011
1 Mar 2011
red squirrel, recreational disturbance, tourism impacts, mountain bike trails
The increase in tourism and recreational activities potentially adds to the already increasing pressure on endangered and vulnerable wildlife. Impacts on wildlife caused by these increasingly popular pursuits are poorly understood. However, it is thought that these recreational activities can lead to a decline in local population numbers and even species richness. This study tests the effects of two recently opened mountain bike trails within Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria on the abundance of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), whose numbers have rapidly declined throughout the UK. Distance sampling survey techniques were used following transect routes of a previous 2007 study, undertaken prior to construction of the mountain bike trails. Data gathered compares squirrel abundance with trail usage, habitat and population. Habitat type was the principle determinant of red squirrel abundance, with a significant correlation identified with preference towards Larch. No negative effect was found to be caused by the presence of the mountain bike trails. However, further studies should be undertaken and mitigation measures should be carried out until any negative effects can be completely dismissed.