CONSERVATION volunteers are celebrating after they acquired indisputable proof that red squirrels are back in Allendale, Northumberland.
The Allen Valleys Red Squirrel group said they were thrilled that the secretive creatures, which are in serious decline throughout the UK, were picked up by a camera trap last month.
Since 2014, the North Pennines AONB Partnership has been working on a programme to help encourage more of the animals back into the area through its Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Emma Wright. Conservation Officer with the AONB Partnership, said: “This is a brilliant moment, knowing all the hard work was worth it and there are indeed red squirrels back in Allendale. We’ve had a few sightings but without confirmation we could never be absolutely sure, but now we have absolute evidence they are here.”
This pocket of Northumberland was one of England’s last refuges for the native red squirrel but in recent decades it has been driven to extinction by the invasive grey.
The bigger and bolder grey squirrel outcompetes the red for food and habitat but also carries the Squirrel Pox Virus which they greys have immunity to but which kills the reds.
To encourage the reds back into the area the AONB Partnership help set up the Allen Valleys Red Squirrel Group. The group, which was previously ran in partnership with Red Squirrels Northern England, has been coordinating grey squirrel control throughout the area’s woodlands and in conjunction with local landowners.
Emma added: “As well as the control, our volunteers have been carrying out out habitat management and conservation in Deneholme Wood, where we recently restored a footpath and bridge, and it’s very encouraging to see red squirrels making a home here. It’s a wonderful boost everyone involved in red squirrel conservation.”
Julie Bailey, the group’s co-ordinator, is urging more people to get involved in the project. She said: “Without volunteer help, the red squirrels in Allendale and throughout the Allen Valleys will be replaced by invasive grey squirrels. To protect our red squirrels we need help with tasks such as speedy reporting and controlling of greys, the setting up and monitoring of feeding stations for reds and using camera traps to detect where our reds are living.”
If anyone would like to get involved in the project, or if you see a red or grey squirrel in the Allen Valleys, please contact Julie Bailey on 07817 634436 or email Allenvalleysred1@gmail.com