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Red Squirrel Recovery Network

Red Squirrel Recovery Network

Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) have been given the go-ahead and funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to start a 12 month development phase for the Red Squirrel Recovery Network (RSRN) project, with a view to submitting the final application next year.

The project is a partner collaboration; involving NWT, Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT), The Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust (LWT), Knowsley Safari and Southern Uplands Partnership (SUP) in Scotland.

RSRN is an ambitious project which will work at a super-landscape scale to bring about lasting change for red squirrels, who would be lost in 10 years without continuous and extensive conservation effort.

We are at a critical point for the recovery of red squirrels across the UK. For the first time, RSRN will bring together conservation partners and 50+ volunteer groups to work across the Southern Scotland/ Northern England red squirrel range. Due to grey squirrel only areas now firmly established to the north and south of this area, and grey squirrel incursion occurring regularly, red squirrels in this region are extremely vulnerable to extinction.

What will be delivered?

In the initial development stage (first year) of the project, partners will work together to collect baseline data across the project areas on squirrel distribution, grey squirrel management activity and volunteer demographics to establish the current range of volunteers as well as identify opportunities to encourage new volunteers. Conservation and communication plans will also be developed and emerging science will be built on to support the delivery of grey squirrel fertility control and the annual squirrel Spring Monitoring Programme (Spring Monitoring Programme). Following the development phase, and subject to acceptance from the National Heritage Fund in 2024, the five-year delivery phase will begin. Some of the deliverables throughout the project will include:

Building on emerging science to carry out field trials relating to fertility control for grey squirrels and establish new methodologies which are potentially transformative for the future of red squirrels  

For the first time, employing a dedicated Communications Officer to audiences within and beyond the project area including responding to volunteer requests to increase profile/raise awareness, using new opportunities to build a more resilient supporter base for the red squirrel conservation movement 

Engaging new audiences within the red squirrel range – involving more volunteers to support existing local groups and building a wider network of engaged and aware people in local communities and the general public 

Utilising the endearing red squirrel as an opportunity to connect new audiences most in need to explore woodlands, notice nature, develop skills, feel less isolated, connect with their community and, potentially, see one of our most iconic species in its natural habitat. In particular, providing new targeted activities which will benefit communities in South and East Ayrshire, West Cumbria Coast, South East Northumberland and Knowsley

Working with volunteers and communities in rural areas to understand and monitor the potential impact of pine martens 

Improving data sharing across the area to build a more coherent picture of current status and likely impact of new game-changing interventions

Sustaining current conservation efforts, ensuring that decades of investment are not lost just at the time when more sustainable approaches are on the horizon 

Providing training, equipment and other support to local groups and volunteers at local and regional/national levels 

Providing small grants for local projects which support local volunteer action (delivered by squirrel groups or other community groups) 

Working with current and new partners to secure a future for reds and resilient woodlands/forests across the north of England and Southern Scotland – this will include working with partners and landowners to establish new income streams for red squirrel conservation.  

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