Brand new maps show that red squirrels are still living in woodlands right across Northumberland and Cumbria, well beyond identified strongholds such as Kielder Forest, plus, red squirrels are still also present in the Yorkshire Dales, the Sefton coast in Merseyside and County Durham.
This completely new picture of the native red squirrels’ current geographical range in the North of England has been created following more than 1200 hours of work by volunteers and staff this spring.
‘Red Army’ volunteers and staff from the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) conservation partnership went to 239 woodlands in Northumberland, Cumbria, Merseyside, Durham and North Yorkshire to discover which species of squirrels are now living in them.
Red squirrels were found in 113 of the 239 woodlands systematically surveyed and are still present across five northern English counties; additional sightings from trained volunteers and members of the public from the same time period have also been incorporated to build an even more complete picture of red squirrel distribution.
The main conservation threat to red squirrels in England comes from the competition and disease problems caused by non-native grey squirrels. Grey squirrels were detected in 34 % of woodlands surveyed, a sobering reminder of the conservation challenge red squirrels continue to face. RSNE is working alongside land managers and volunteer groups across northern England to carry out grey squirrel control in areas important to red squirrels.
Adam Seward, RSNE Research Officer and co-ordinator of the monitoring project, said: “We are grateful to all supporters of this enormous survey. The results will provide a vital benchmark against which to measure changes in squirrel species range in future years.”
The information gathered means a baseline has been created against which the success of increasing red squirrel conservation efforts can be measured. The monitoring programme will be repeated in the autumn and bi-annually in future years. Hopefully, repeated monitoring will show the maintenance and expansion of red squirrel range in northern England over time, giving all those contributing to red squirrel conservation a fantastic boost.
The main funder of this spring’s monitoring project is Hexham based EGGER UK Ltd.
Steven Batey, storage co-ordinator and administrator at EGGER UK Ltd, is a volunteer carrying out survey work near his home in Wark Forest. He said: “EGGER is a family-owned company which has always placed great importance on protecting the natural environment. It is heavily involved in the UK forestry industry and good stewardship and sustainability are key priorities when it comes to sourcing raw materials.
“The company is the largest employer in Northumberland with much of the workforce living in rural and semi-rural areas, so we’re perfectly located to assist in monitoring red squirrel activity throughout the county.”
A report detailing the spring 2012 monitoring results can be found at www.rsne.org.uk/squirrel-monitoring-programme.
The partners in RSNE are Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire, Durham and North Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts, Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. The project also