RED squirrels are returning to the Lake District and regaining their old terri-tories thanks to the efforts of conservation workers in the area.
Numbers of squirrels have been dwindling because of the squirrel pox virus carried by rival greys.
But there are signs of a recovery as reds have been returning to previously popular areas such as Skellghyll Woods in Ambleside and Betty Fold at Hawkshead Hill.
Conservationists at red squirrel organisations such as the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society, Grasmere Red Squirrel Group and Red Squirrels Northern England have been monitoring the distribution of reds and greys and getting rid of greys by using live capture traps.
This means that any reds that are trapped are freed while greys are killed.
Simon O’Hare, of the charity Red Squirrels Northern England, said the involvement of local people had been ‘crucial’ in boosting numbers.
“The key to success is partnership working,” he said. “With the support of local people, larger organisations such as the National Trust and Lake District National Park Authority have been able to carry out red squirrel conservation. The proof is in the data – reds are being seen throughout the area. The knock-on effect on tourism is immeasurable. People never forget seeing red squirrels.”
Neil Salisbury, who owns Hawkshead Hill where red squirrels were wiped out five years ago, said that thanks to the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society, greys had been removed and reds were now using the feeders at the tea room.
Mr Salisbury said: “We felt we were fighting an uphill battle and that reds would never return here, but with the help of the Westmorland Red Squirrel Society, we were able to remove the grey squirrels, which allowed reds to return.”
These success stories are being echoed in many other woodlands and gardens, such as Grasmere, Amble-side, Loughrigg, Troutbeck, the Kentmere Valley and Elterwater.
Over the next couple of years, RSNE, with the help of volunteer groups and communities, hope to build the evidence base that shows scientifically that grey control leads to the return of reds.
To find out more about the work being done locally, visit www.westmorlandred-squirrels.org.uk