Following two months of autumn survey work in 300 different 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 5% 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% 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 are also about to commence 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 transmission and resource competition posed by greys.
Especially encouraging over the last six months are the return of red squirrels in two red squirrel reserves south of Hexham and a rash of records inland from the Sefton coast close to Ormskirk and Liverpool for the first time in a decade. In addition, the survey confirms again the huge range of red squirrels across Cumbria. The conservation efforts and monitoring producing these fantastic results are supported by Biffa Award, SITA Trust, the Forestry Commission and many other committed partners.
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 toneed active conservation at this scale for the foreseeable future.”
The results have enabled the production of a new squirrel range map for the English mainland, showing the extent to which red and grey squirrels now live in the same landscapes, highlighting the need for continued investment and community commitment to grey squirrel control as the only measure that can ensure red squirrels continue to thrive.
To read the full Autumn 2013 Monitoring report, click HERE.