RED squirrels have been detected in more sites across the north of England than the marauding greys, a new study has revealed.
The fifth annual Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) survey reports that populations of reds can now be found in seven northern counties.
Factors such as wet weather and a lack of natural foods favoured by grey squirrels such as beech nuts and acorns in autumn 2015 are likely to have influenced the result.
This is coupled with a huge conversation effort by RSNE staff, private estates and hundreds of community volunteers across the north of England working together to protect red squirrels.
Greys were not seen in a number of sites within the Lake District, and their absence was particularly significant in locations where they had been seen in 2015. One such location is Tarn Hows, a National Trust property near Coniston.
Trevor Cooper, a volunteer from Grasmere, was delighted with the result, and said: “It was fantastic to find red squirrel only images on the camera, and it goes to show that conservation work in the area is having some effect. This greatly helps us to protect our strong population of reds further north in Grasmere.”
This year’s results show that the red squirrel range has remained stable from last year, with 44 per cent of sites surveyed containing the rare mammal.
Grey squirrels have fared poorer having been found in only 37 per cent, compared to 47 per cent of sites last year.
The result follows two successive years of grey squirrel range expansion and provides some welcome news for the thousands of people involved in red squirrel conservation across the north of England.
Nick Mason, RSNE Project Manager, said: “We are really pleased by the fantastic news that red squirrels have remained stable since the last survey, having been a little concerned by the rise in greys over the last two years.
"There are lots of opportunities to see red squirrels and I would really encourage everyone to go and see them in the wild for themselves. This monitoring programme would not be possible without the help of over 140 volunteers who each year are willing to carry out surveys and we are really grateful for their help.
“These results help us to understand the natural fluctuations in both red and grey squirrel populations and it is really important that we carry on this study into the future to help us assess the impact of conservation measures for red squirrels.”
For information on where you can see red squirrels or to report your sightings, visit www.rsne.org.uk