Northumbrians delighted at seeing red

September 17, 2013

Volunteers across northern England are processing new information which strongly suggests that the population of red squirrels in the region may finally be stabilising after over 140 years of decline.

During spring 2013, 300 woodlands and gardens across northern England were surveyed, with results showing that red squirrels were found in 7% more sites and grey squirrels found in 18% fewer sites than in spring 2012, which is very encouraging.

This is the first time regular, large-scale squirrel monitoring has been undertaken in England, and the results provide huge encouragement for the hundreds of land managers and volunteers involved in red squirrel conservation work.

Previous research shows both squirrel species populations vary from year to year due to differences in food availability and weather severity, so these trends will be tested in future years.

Thirty Northumberland volunteers recently celebrated their involvement in the project at a Heritage Lottery Fund sponsored training event held at Stannington Village Hall, Northumberland.

In north Northumberland red squirrels are looking strong again, between Wooler and Berwick, after an outbreak of red squirrel disease two years ago.  John Rae, from the Berwick Save our Squirrels Group said: “Without this monitoring we would not know what was happening in our valuable red squirrel woodlands, or the how effective our conservation work is.

“The good news for 2013 is that the monitoring of our woodlands shows signs of a reduction in grey squirrels against previous years, with red squirrels moving back in.”

In south Northumberland red squirrels are still being found in dozens of back gardens around Ashington, Bedlington and Cramlington.  Monitoring volunteer Gary Gallagher from Choppington said: “I think it is our responsibility to help the red squirrels out as much as possible.  Every little thing we do is a step to help save our reds.”

Nick Mason, RSNE Programme Manager, said: “None of this would have been possible without support from Biffa Award and HLF which is helping us make massive in-roads into saving reds. I would urge everybody in Northumberland to get involved, stay involved and help make a difference to the future of these beautiful and endearing animals.”

The RSNE team would love anyone seeing red squirrels between now and Christmas to record their sightings through our website, so please visit www.rsne.org.uk/sightings and share the good news. This will ensure red squirrels everywhere are represented in the results of the autumn monitoring programme, helping to encourage further conservation development in 2014.

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