A wind farm proposed for Mid Wales could wipe out threatened red squirrel populations, a wildlife campaigner has warned.
Phil Harries, who has dedicated 23 years to protecting the species, fears that 25 wind farms being considered for Bryn Cadwgan Energy Park in the Cambrian Mountain Range will cause “devastation”.
The grey and red squirrel handling officer at the South and West Wales Wildlife Trust said: “Red squirrels are under threat especially in Mid Wales. They have never been reintroduced and there are no captive bred red squirrels released in this area.
“I’ve been part of this project for over 20 years, recording data, camera footage and DNA work. We have footage of juvenile squirrels within the focal area – which both the Government and energy firm Galileo have got – which proves they are breeding.
“The proposed plans for this wind farm are within the protected focal sight. It will cause devastation and affect a variety of endangered species, not just the red squirrels.
“We as an organisation support renewable energy but not when already threatened species are at risk. Nature is key to tackling climate change.”
Mr Harries said the proposed energy park, by energy firm Galileo, is near a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – a formal conservation designation.
He said the wind farm would lead to the destruction of plants that red squirrels depend on for food.
The nature expert added: “Once they’re gone, there won’t be as much food left for them, if any food at all.”
He estimates there are up to 80 individuals in the area, including juveniles which suggests the population is breeding.
Red squirrels are our native species and have lived in the UK for around 10,000 years.
But they have been threatened by grey squirrels that were introduced to the UK from North America by the Victorians in the 1800s.
The grey squirrel outcompetes the red for food, space and carries a disease, called the squirrel pox virus.
Without conservation management, red squirrels could become extinct in England.
Galileo has been contacted for a comment.