Squirrel report continues to vex campaigners

A red squirrel in Stannington. Picture by Mark Legard
A red squirrel in Stannington. Picture by Mark Legard

A report by a red-squirrel project continues to cause disquiet among campaigners in north Northumberland.

Last month, we reported that this year has seen a decline in the number of sites where red squirrels were detected for the first time since the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) project started in 2012.

Project manager Nick Mason said: “There is no cause for alarm here as fluctuations in squirrel populations linked to environmental factors are entirely natural and beyond our control.”

Last week, however, Ernie Gordon, who has campaigned for decades to prevent the extinction of red squirrels, criticised the report, particularly the use of the phrase ‘no cause for alarm, saying that ‘almost the entire population of red squirrels in Northumberland, and elsewhere throughout England, has been completely wiped out by the alien, disease-ridden, grey species’.

Now, Coquetdale Squirrel Group has added its voice to the dissent.

The well-respected group has been monitoring numbers of red and grey squirrels regularly since it was established in 2008 and in that time there have been significant changes.

“When we first started, few people had seen a grey squirrel in Coquetdale and we were getting loads of sitings of red squirrels from all over the area,” said Jeanne Casken, chairman of the group.

“The picture has now changed. The numbers of red squirrels has declined markedly.

“People out walking who used to see lots and lots of reds at Cragside, Thrunton, Holystone and Brinkburn are now only seeing the odd one.

“By contrast, the number of greys is increasing, with well more than 150 having been culled in our area since the beginning of 2015.

“There is no room for complacency. We are asking the public to continue to be vigilant and report when and where they have seen both reds and greys.

“As a group, we encourage the reds by whatever means and there is a well-organised trapping campaign for the greys. We must do all we can to stop this flood of greys driving out the reds by competing for food and spreading the deadly squirrel pox.

“Greys are now being seen in all parts of the valley where they have never been seen before and our reds are in real danger.”

Contact the group on ispy squirrel@hotmail.co.uk or 07740 779729.