Westmorland Red Squirrels

Grasmere to Grizedale Project (G2G)

G2G is an exciting project that, for the first time, could make a significant breakthrough in securing the conditions needed for red squirrels to survive and thrive in and around the Hawkshead area. With Grasmere to the north, the Furness Fells to the west, Windermere to the east and Grizedale Forest to the south, the area’s woodlands offer prime habitat for reds. But they have become home to a growing number of greys that prove hard to catch in its patchwork of woodlands.

A positive future for reds between Grizedale and Grasmere?
© RSNE

The National Trust owns much of the woodland and with the benefit of Countryside Stewardship funding and in partnership with Westmorland Red Squirrels and the Grasmere Red Squirrel Group, Red Squirrels Northern England will shortly recruit a full-time red squirrel ranger for the area. Their role is to liaise with all landowners and work alongside volunteers to implement a comprehensive programme of monitoring and control aimed at reducing grey squirrel presence, allowing the area’s red squirrels to flourish. For more details, here is a link to a summary of the programme.

Rusland’s Reds – the sequel

Our Heritage Lottery funding ran out in June but happily, money is in the bank to sustain our work in and around Rusland for the foreseeable future. We need to raise about £3,000 a year to buy cameras, traps and bait; pay contractors; and produce publicity and educational material.

Rusland woodland
© Rusland Horizons

Thanks to generous support from the Graythwaite Estate, Logs Direct, Forestry England and the Lake District National Park Authority, we have gathered sufficient funds to continue our work for at least the next two years. We’ll continue to raise funds, of course, and seek assistance from a variety of sources including the new Rusland Horizons Trust that has been established as a permanent successor to the original Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership Scheme. Our most important support is from the local community and many local people have volunteered their time to secure a permanent future for Rusland’s Reds. We are most grateful. If you would like to donate to support this project or any of our activities, please go to the link at the end of this issue.

Annual General Meeting

Our well-attended annual meeting in May saw all officers and trustees re-appointed. Our guest speaker, Craig Shuttleworth from Red Squirrel Trust Wales, focussed on the potential for red squirrel reintroductions. If we’re to save our native red squirrels, he argued, there would be times when we might need to reintroduce and reinforce existing remaining populations. Previous programmes have not always succeeded, causing many influential organisations to doubt their value. Recently, Craig has helped the UK Squirrel Accord develop a Protocol for red squirrel captive breeding, public enclosures and release programmes in the UK. This establishes best practice and ensures compliance with International Union for Nature Conservation guidance. The Protocol is due for publication in the next few months.

Craig Shuttleworth

RSNE Annual Survey

The Spring survey of red and grey squirrels across the north of England is now complete for another year. Thank you to everyone who took part. Here is an image captured when three reds popped up in Clappersgate during the survey period.

Three red squirrels near Clappersgate

The collated results and analysis of the 2019 survey will be available later in the year. 2018’s surveys can be viewed here.

AREA REPORTS

Reports of grey squirrel sightings have risen sharply in June. Luckily, this has coincided with a willingness to enter traps, for the time being, at least. It is too early to say yet whether this is a worrying increase in numbers or simply part of the natural cycle where greys become more visible when looking for food on the ground.

Grey contemplating a trap in Kentmere

One of our volunteers has had great success shooting greys feasting on Wych Elm seeds, the first seeds to ripen in the Spring. This is something to bear in mind as other natural food ripens - judging by the blossom this year, it could be a bumper crop.

Wych Elm seeds
© Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust

Ambleside and Langdale

After a quiet start to the year, activity has picked up considerably in the last few weeks. More and more reds are being reported: one was seen in woodland next to the Health Centre in Ambleside and others have been seen in areas where they have not been seen for many many years. The more success we enjoy, the more people come forward offering to take a trap in their garden, which is very positive.
We have recently established a good working relationship with the Wildlife Conservation department of the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus. We now have permission to operate within their grounds and enjoy great co-operation with staff and students.

Ambleside campus

Windermere

A slow start to the season saw few greys removed from the area. June however, has looked more hopeful as squirrels move into new territories. Reports of tree damage due to bark stripping have increased recently, which indicates there are a number of greys around. We continue to remain vigilant and hope to remove as many as possible, both to minimise damage to our trees and protect our woodland habitat for our red squirrels.

OTHER SQUIRREL SNIPPETS

Outreach work

Not all of our pest control activity is confined to south Cumbria and north Lancashire. One of our members, who moved to York for family reasons, has built up a great relationship with the National Trust’s estate managers over there and has a licence to control greys on one of their properties. After the greys wrecked his early feeders, he has now turned to armour plating for the replacement. Those tykes must be pretty aggressive!

Squirrel Feeder near York
© Brian Jowett

EVENTS

A collection box with a difference

If our red squirrels are to stay healthy, they must always be able to access sufficient food. Westmorland Red Squirrel’s volunteers make sure by topping up our many wooden feeder boxes with nuts throughout the year. Reds quickly get to know in which trees these are situated; in fact, they can often be found waiting near a box when a volunteer arrives with fresh supplies. But nuts aren’t cheap and a red squirrel can eat a £3 box of hazelnuts and peanuts every week and sometimes more.
Earlier in the year, members John and Wendy Phillips wondered if funds might be raised at shows and other events for squirrel food. John set to work making a traditional feeder box and then cut a coin slot in the top. Wendy, meanwhile, sourced a life-size red squirrel youngster made from resin, which is now safely screwed to the top of the box. Thanks both!

As always, we look forward to meeting old friends and new at our stand. We are now well into the show season, recently attending Countryfest at the Westmorland Showground at Crooklands (below) and an Open Day at Myerscough College. Come and say hello at any of the events we’re attending later in the summer. Details are on our website.
And if you have a couple of coins in your pocket, why not pop them into our new collection box?! All donations are welcome and they will help keep our local red squirrels fit and healthy throughout the year.

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Volunteer

Report a squirrel sighting

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