Recovery of red-squirrel population seems to be continuing

A red squirrel sneezing. Picture by Peter Skillen.
A red squirrel sneezing. Picture by Peter Skillen.

Following survey work last autumn in 300 woodlands and gardens across northern England, it appears that red squirrels are continuing to recover following a century of decline.

This is the fourth monitoring project run by the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) project over last two years.

Community volunteers and project staff found red squirrels in five per cent more sites during monitoring in autumn 2013 than in the spring of the same year, following similar improvements during 2012.

This is despite seeing a 15 per cent increase in the number of sites with grey squirrels, a result that was expected after the apparent food-related crash in grey squirrel numbers in 2012.

The Red Squirrels Northern England team is also poised to start the spring 2014 survey period, hoping that the grey upsurge does not trigger a decline in red squirrels due to the dual threats of disease and resource competition posed by greys.

Detailed scientific analysis of this wealth of information is now underway to assess these monitoring trends and to inform longer-term conservation planning necessary to build on this early success.

Nick Mason, RSNE project manager, said: “Dozens of new recruits are joining this enormous conservation effort every month from communities throughout northern England, no doubt encouraged by this evidence of success.

“These superb results suggest that a thousand local activists and a host of partners are saving a species for an estimated two million residents to enjoy in their gardens and local woodlands across northern England.

“Conservation efforts must continue as red squirrels are likely to need active conservation at this scale for the foreseeable future.”

The conservation efforts are supported by Biffa Award, SITA Trust, the Forestry Commission and other partners.