Red Squirrels in the North East of England

Louise Bessant

Red Alert North East (RANE) was established in 1992, in response to the threat of extinction of red squirrels in Great Britain. Originally a partnership between Newcastle University and Northumberland Wildlife Trust, RANE has developed into a working partnership with a wide range of stakeholders in red squirrel conservation. These partners include landowners, conservation organisations, businesses, university researchers and the public, all working to ensure the north east of England remains one of the last strongholds for the red squirrel.

The Red Alert campaign to conserve red squirrels is based on a combination of research into squirrel ecology, population modelling, forestry and public education. Following its successful research origins, the project has huge local public support, with over 25,000 public squirrel records in its database, building up a unique reference source.

A number of large conifer plantations in Northumberland have been identified as potential red squirrel reserves, which will provide the best chance for red squirrel conservation. A range of factors was considered when identifying these woodlands, including size, species composition, age, landowner support, and isolation and defendability from grey squirrel incursion. Each woodland has a buffer zone surrounding it, which we try to ensure is actively managed to keep grey squirrel numbers absent or low.

The first Red Squirrel Conservation Officer for the north east was employed in 1999. Now based with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Red Squirrel Conservation Officer works to implement the conservation strategy, to encourage the ‘red squirrel friendly’ management of the potential red squirrel reserves, and ensuring the buffer zones remain ‘grey unfriendly’. Advice is provided on proposed tree planting and felling, and grey control is implemented in and around the sites identified as reserves. An additional benefit of grey control is that it allows further research into the parapox virus. Results from blood samples from greys are distributed and shared with other Red Squirrel Conservation Officers and researchers.

The Red Squirrel Conservation Officer also plays a vital role in raising public awareness of the perilous status of the red squirrel and provides information to the public on subjects such as supplementary feeding and provision of road warning signs.

The Red Squirrel Conservation Officer is now based at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Telephone: 0191 2846884, Email: , Post: Garden House, St Nicholas Park, Jubilee Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 3XT. More information about RANE, red squirrels, and selection of the potential red squirrel reserves can be found

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