Picture courtesy of Stewart Hingston

Northern Red Squirrels

About NRS

Picture courtesy of Peter Curran

The red squirrel, which used to exist in very large numbers throughout the UK, is now an endangered species. The main threat is the grey squirrel, a much larger species that has spread across the UK at an increasingly alarming rate. Competing for food and habitat it crucially carries the Squirrel Pox virus, which has little effect on the grey but is usually fatal when passed to the red.

The red still inhabits areas of Northern England and conservation efforts are ongoing by funded organisations such as the Red Squirrels Northern England Project (RSNE), Red Squirrel Protection Partnership (RSPP) and Government bodies. However, resources are limited and their work is focussed primarily on 17 key areas, including Kielder Forest. For non-key areas and to provide additional support to the funded bodies, action by volunteers is crucial.

Voluntary organisations have been active in Cumbria since the early 1990s and similar groups have now been established in Northumberland. However, liaison between them has been informal as has their relationships with the funded bodies. In addition, there was no support for individuals who wanted to set up new groups or become involved with an existing one.

Northern Red Squirrels is an umbrella group that has been created to unite all independent voluntary groups and individuals that are working to help save our red squirrels from extinction in the North. It is a 'network of voluntary action' that will share news, ideas and best practice. Each member, however, remains completely independent to allow it to address issues within its own area in the most appropriate way. Since its launch in March 2008, Northern Red Squirrels has attracted over forty independent voluntary groups and individuals to join forces and the number is still rising.

There is little doubt that without the efforts of these volunteers, there would be fewer areas in the north that are still inhabited by red squirrels. However, in the last year or two, some areas have lost their red squirrel populations as greys have taken over. With additional voluntary help, further losses can be prevented. Hence, Northern Red Squirrels also exists to provide information, advice and guidance to enable others to get involved in conservation efforts.

If you would like to become involved, contact your local group if one exists or if not, email or phone NRS. To find the nearest group to you, use our Map or look through the alphabetical Membership Groups list. If you do not wish to become formally involved. you can still provide valuable assistance by:

  • reporting your red and grey squirrel sightings on our special form and help us to monitor the success of our conservation work;
  • providing supplementary feeding, guidance for which can be found on the FAQs - Reds page;
  • making your garden red squirrel friendly, guidance for which can be found on the FAQs - Reds page;
Hence, to summarise, the primary aims of Northern Red Squirrels are to:
  • contribute to the work of the funded groups by supporting their activities;
  • 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, including those who wish to set up their own voluntary group in an area where none currently exists.