Wildlife group aims to bring red squirrels back to Furness, Cumbria

VOLUNTEERS have been encouraged to go nuts to help return endangered red squirrels to the forests and woods of Furness.

No red bushy-tailed rodents are known to be living in the Furness area but a campaigner wants to change that.

The red squirrel is a native British species which once thrived in various parts of Britain.

Cumbria is one of the few parts of the country where it is still seen – and there was an encouraging sighting recently in the Duddon Valley - but numbers have dropped sharply due to the threat posed by greys.

“There have been successful red squirrel projects on Anglesey (an island) and in Cornwall (a peninsula), where grey squirrels were removed, allowing existing and re-introduced red populations to thrive,” said Jackie Foott, co-ordinator of the SLRSG.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a similar project in the South Lakes Peninsulas so that we could yet again enjoy watching our beloved red squirrels.”

The grey squirrel is indigenous to North America and was introduced to the UK in the 1800s.

Greys out-compete reds for food and carry a pox that does not affect them but is deadly to red squirrels.

They greys will raid nests to eat birds’ eggs and chicks as well as causing huge damage by stripping the bark from healthy trees.

This is bad for the environment and a cause of great concern to the UK’s timber and forestry industry which could stand to lose an estimated £40 million a year from damage caused by grey squirrels.

The very survival of our red squirrels depends on the effective control of the grey population which is something wildlife, environmental and forestry organisations are now engaged in.

The issue was even raised as a topic for parliamentary debate last year by Copeland MP Trudy Harrison.

There is enough suitable habitat and food to sustain reds and enable them to thrive again but their fate lies in the hands of the human population.

That reds still exist in the North of England is down to the efforts of groups such as the South Lakes Red Squirrel Group (SLRSG) that has been monitoring and controlling greys for over a decade.