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North Tyne and Redesdale Red Squirrels

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Squirrel Organisations

Introduction

There is a confusing number of organisations claiming to be working for red squirrels. The purpose of this section is to list and briefly describe currently existing organisations from a "volunteer" perspective, i.e. what do they do on the ground and more particularly what do they do in the North East?

National and Regional Organisations

 The Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST)
RSST is a charitable trust based in London, describing itself as "The UK's national red squirrel charity". The website, recently replaced, is short on hard facts, particularly with regard to any current involvement or support for activity in the North East.
However, they have just announced

Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE)
Originally formed as a partnership between The Wildlife Trusts, the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, Forestry Commission and Natural England in co-operation with Northern Red Squirrels. Initial funding was for a five year period, 2010-15, and then a diminishing role to the present; now effectively merged with Northumberland Wildlife Trusts.

  • The great strength of RSNE was a clearly stated and unapologetic policy: grey squirrels must be controlled to enable the survival of reds.
  • Their undisputed achievement was that this was proven both possible and practical. Where grey squirrels were controlled, reds rapidly re-colonised from adjacent areas and thrived.
  • Eighteen rangers were in full-time employment over the North to protect the integrity of the main red squirrel strongholds, such as Kielder, and to maintain a buffer zone extending south towards the South Tyne.
  • Regular monitoring was employed across the North to determine progress and ensure integrity.
  • Now much reduced but still fulfilling a leading role, as the only currently active regional group in the North.

Red Squirrels United (RSU)

This is a partnership involving the Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission and Newcastle University, formed in 2015 and assumed at the outset to be carrying on where RSNE left off. They received £3M of funding from EULife14 and the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2015/16, intended to cover a 4 year period, i.e. until late 2019. 

  • Their website is very thin on factual information. They have undertaken some work in Northern Ireland and Wales, but this is not described.
  • We are not aware of their involvement in any work in the North of England except to maintain the monitoring scheme started by RSNE.
  • Ranger numbers have been reduced from eighteen (under RSNE) to three across the whole of the North. Two of these are now supported by RSU and cover the area around Kielder. This is derisory and entirely unable to maintain the situation created by RSNE.
  • They are also funding, as the Forestry Commission's contribution, a sociological survey into peoples attitudes to squirrels called "Forest Research".
  • RSU are now contemplating their end of tenure whilst we contemplate their legacy: we suggest that for the North East this amounts to a long struggle to recover the situation they inherited from RSNE.

The United Kingdom Squirrel Accord (UKSA)

The Accord was formed in May 2014. Membership is from conservation, timber and woodland interests, sharing concerns regarding the damage caused by grey squirrels. Their stated aim is
Red squirrel populations protected and thriving and greys controlled through targeted and sustained action
.

  • It was appreciated that this was to be a long term project and that funding would have to come from the private, voluntary and Government sources.
  • The Accord recognised that a more acceptable method of grey control was necessary and decided to fund the development of a suitable oral contraceptive for grey squirrels.
  • We are now in the second year of a five year project whereby an effective material has been identified and a safe means of delivery is now in development. This is described in our Research section.
  • UKSA have also facilitated the accreditation of the highly effective Goodnature A18 squirrel trap. This is described in our News section.

Northern Red Squirrels (NRS)

NRS is the umbrella association representing red squirrel volunteer groups across the north of England. They are respected and effective as a source of information as well as providing charitable status to member groups. Areas of key support are as follows:

  • Improve the effectiveness of voluntary groups and individuals by providing information, advice and guidance to ensure consistency of approach to conservation activities.
  • When required, co-ordinate any action taken jointly by several groups and individuals.
  • Provide support and guidance for people who wish to become involved in safeguarding red squirrels in the North of England, including those who wish to set up their own voluntary group.
  • Contribute to the work of the funded groups such as Red Squirrels Northern England by supporting their activities.

The European Squirrel Initiative (ESI)

ESI was formed in 2002 as a publicity and lobby group with the aim to foster the commitment of governments throughout Europe in securing the future of the red squirrel through the effective control of the grey squirrel. They are effective and respected as well as publishing a quarterly newsletter. This is well informed and worth reading. A link is given below.
(https://www.europeansquirrelinitiative.org/newsletter/)

The Forestry Commission
The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in England and Scotland. This includes the main red squirrel stronghold, Kielder Forest. They provide a code of standards and recommendations for grey squirrel control; but as far as we are aware, they do not undertake any grey squirrel control or monitoring in this area and have

no regular communication with volunteer groups involved in protecting the integrity of Kielder. For all their stipulations and aspirational words, this arm of government, in practice, actually does nothing to support red squirrels.