Reds still bucking the trend

Jean Mitchell, Friends of Pegswood Community Woods. Picture by Katy Cook
Jean Mitchell, Friends of Pegswood Community Woods. Picture by Katy Cook

Following three months of surveys across northern England, analysis confirms that the red-squirrel range has remained stable over the last two years, bucking a trend of more than a century of loss.

Taking part in 289 different woodlands and gardens, this is the fifth monitoring survey run by the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) project over the last three years.

Community volunteers and project staff found red squirrels in the same number of sites as during autumn 2013, despite seeing an increase of nine per cent in the number of sites with non-native grey squirrels. Increases in grey detection were expected following a mild winter and seemingly abundant wild nut and berry supply.

This serves a as stark reminder that the future of the red squirrel on the English mainland is entirely in the hands of committed individuals, groups and organisations currently working together to conserve reds by managing intermingled non-native grey squirrel populations.

Further south in the county, reds squirrels continue to fare extremely well where communities are working together to conserve them, for instance, at Pegswood Community Woods, near Morpeth.

Jean Mitchell, of Friends of Pegswood Community Woods, said: “We have been feeding and monitoring our reds regularly and we have seen an increase this year with two new kits.

“We have had a lot of support from the local community and we will be starting our Adopt a Red Squirrel scheme in September, and in south-east Northumberland, there are some fantastic colonies of reds in the eastern urban centres of Ashington, Cramlington and Bedlington.”

The conservation efforts and monitoring producing these results are supported by Biffa Award, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Nurture Lakeland, Furness Building Society, Forestry Commission and many other committed partners.

Nick Mason, RSNE project manager, said: “Our broad conservation community is growing ever more certain that this high-quality science is reflecting the positive impact of sustained hard work.

“Hundreds of people working together, with appropriate investment, are conserving this beautiful animal for two million northern English residents to enjoy on their doorsteps. This investment must continue to maintain this success.”