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Rise in red squirrel numbers in Cumbria
RARE red squirrels have been spotted in some areas of Cumbria for the first time in a decade, a conservation study has revealed.
The three-month project carried out by volunteers for the wildlife group Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) showed the population of red squirrels in the north of England had risen after 140 years of decline.
During spring 2013, almost 300 woodlands and gardens were visited in the North, including in Cumbria, with results showing that red squirrels were found in seven per cent more sites compared to spring 2012.
Volunteers also found grey squirrels - that carry a pox which kills the reds – were on the decline, with 18 per cent fewer sightings than the previous year.
The RSNE said helping preserve woodland habitats, conservation and volunteer projects had helped halt the decline in the population of reds.
Volunteers used a range of different monitoring techniques, including visual counts while walking though woodlands and filming via remote cameras.
Sticky pads were also put down in woods to trap squirrel hairs to be examined under a microscope.
Many people living in wooded areas around Ambleside and Rydal have sighted the species for the first time in 10 years.
Trevor Cooper from Grasmere Red Squirrel Group said: “Setting out on an early morning walk to watch and record red squirrels scurrying about the local woodlands is one of the most pleasant and rewarding experiences of wildlife watching.
“At the same time, it is gratifying to know that my survey information contributes to the RSNE monitoring report which indicates that the red squirrel’s territories are slowly, but surely, recovering across Cumbria, thanks to the tireless efforts of many dedicated people.”
Nick Mason, RSNE programme manager, is confident that a hint of stability in the English red squirrel population is being shown from the annual survey.
“None of this would have been possible without the conservation efforts from hundreds of volunteers, farmers, game keepers and businesses who are involved in the responsible and professional grey squirrel control to keep them away from important places in the county for reds.”
To report sightings of both red and grey squirrels, go to rsne.org.uk
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