Red squirrel conservation project
What is the main threat to the UK's native Red squirrel population?
Red squirrels, at one time, could be found all over Great Britain, but can now only be seen in wooded areas throughout the north of England, western Wales and in many parts of Scotland. They are also found on Anglesey, the Isle of Wight, Brownsea Island and in Thetford Forest in Norfolk.
Red squirrels have been found in England since the end of the last Ice Age and are part of our native fauna.
If you see a red squirrel, please inform Red Squirrels Northern England. Your sightings are very valuable in monitoring their locations.
The non-native grey squirrel was introduced to England in the late 1870s from America and is the primary cause of decline of the red squirrel.
It does so by out-competing red squirrels for food in deciduous and mixed woodlands and by transmitting a disease ‘squirrelpox’, the squirrel Parapoxvirus, which is lethal to red squirrels.
Why do red squirrels matter?
The plight of the red squirrel is recognised in local, regional, national and international conservation policies. It is afforded the highest level of protection under UK law: the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Made eternally popular through Beatrix Potter character Squirrel Nutkin, children and adults across the UK are familiar with the cheeky nature of the animals.
Sadly, red squirrels have suffered severe population decline across the UK. Here in northern England though, evidence is starting to suggest that, through the commitment and dedication of conservation groups, red squirrel range is being maintained.
By working together we can ensure that one of our most-loved iconic species is known to future generations.
Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE)
Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) is a multi-partner project working to conserve red squirrels in northern England. Cumbria Wildlife Trust is an RSNE partner, along with other organisations including Natural England, Red Squirrel Survival Trust and the Forestry Commission.
RSNE has a simple mission: secure and increase red squirrel range, in and beyond the designated strongholds.Red Squirrels Northern England
Local voluntary red squirrel groups in Cumbria
Cumbria has 14 red squirrel groups covering most of the county – these are made up entirely of volunteers. The groups are dedicated to conserving Cumbria’s red squirrels and work closely with RSNE - without their support, conserving Cumbria’s red squirrels would not be possible.
Contact your nearest red squirrel group to find out how you can help them protect the red squirrels in your area.
There are many ways to make a difference, including practical conservation work, fundraising, events and much more. Each group is independent and will have its own requirements for the volunteer help it needs.
Volunteer with your local voluntary red squirrel group - Why not get involved with a variety of tasks from surveying and practical work to marketing and events to support red squirrels in your area?
You can find your nearest local voluntary red squirrel group by visiting the website of their umbrella organisation, Northern Red Squirrels.
Great places to see red squirrels in Cumbria
If you are walking in woodlands in Cumbria keep your eyes peeled for both red and grey squirrels. It’s quite easy to tell them apart – but don't rely on the coat colour.
The reds are considerably smaller and often have long tufts to their ears. Greys always have small, rounded ears and have white hairs along the edge of the tail, giving the tail a halo.
Below are some places where you can go and spot a red squirrel in Cumbria.
Argill Woods Nature Reserve, near Brough
This steep-sided wooded valley with waterfalls and pools is an undisturbed wild place. Red squirrels have recolonised the area, and are thriving following a successful programme of grey squirrel removal.
Dodd Wood, Keswick
Towering above Bassenthwaite Lake, this Forestry Commission woodland offers fantastic views. Red squirrels can be seen on the feeders just below the osprey viewing platform.
Greystoke Forest, Penrith
The forest is an independently owned site with various walks through the forest. Red squirrels can be seen anywhere, but head for areas of Scots pine or larch to have the best chance of spotting one.
National Trust Allan Bank, near Grasmere
Beautiful woodland walks, and a great chance to spot reds in the canopy, on feeders behind the house.
Smardale Nature Reserve, near Kirkby Stephen
Stunning scenery surrounds the steep wooded slopes of Smardale Gill. Red squirrels can be seen racing between the trees. Only 10 years ago, reds were almost extinct here following an influx of greys. Thankfully reds are now once again thriving.
Whinlatter Forest Park, Keswick
A popular destination for walkers and mountain bikers, this Forestry Commission site offers a combination of views, wildlife and adventure. Red squirrels can be seen along a trail from the visitor centre, where a number of feeders attract squirrels.
Wreay Woods Nature Reserve, near Carlisle
Wreay Woods is a diverse woodland that follows the course of the River Petteril.