Conservation group Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) which works to protect red squirrels in the region and further afield, has published the results from its ninth annual squirrel monitoring survey.
The surveys take place in ‘red squirrel counties’ across northern England, where wild red squirrels can still be found: in Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and parts of County Durham.
As with previous years, over 125 people were involved in this massive citizen science project surveying 253 sites including woodlands and gardens across seven counties with many of the surveys carried out by volunteers using trail cameras, feeders in gardens and walking through forests to spot squirrels.
In Northumberland, the number of red squirrels recorded catapulted by 19% to 44.7% from 2019’s 26%, which are the rewards form the long-term and sustained efforts invested by our rangers and local volunteers. Notably the increase in the Harwood and Kielder red squirrel strongholds, where the natural defence of conifer forests provide some help in slowing down the greys, bolstered county results.
Grey squirrel numbers were also up - from 51% to 62.3%, most likely due to favourable environmental factors such as mild winters and good autumn crops, both of which favour grey squirrel reproduction.
Most encouraging from this year’s survey results is red squirrel occupancy across the red squirrel regions has remained stable since 2015 - it is not down, but up! However, there is no room for complacency, as grey squirrel occupancy is also up and very high at around 60% on average.
Management of grey populations remains vital in order to protect the native reds so that they can continue to thrive, which they surely would not be doing if grey management was not at its current level, especially thanks to the significant efforts of local community volunteers.