What We Do and Why

In response to a friend who said to me recently " what on earth do you do all day up there in Coquetdale?", I found myself thinking what a stupid question and then muttering ... and of course there's the squirrels! Later it occurred to me that there may be quite a few folk out there who wonder what we in CSG get up to and why.

Since we started 10 years ago, the group has grown considerably. We have a committee plus volunteers working in the field. In addition we have great support from farmers and landowners and all of you who are aware of our work. We receive no outside funding other than that we raise ourselves from shows, donations and social events. This is spent on equipment, traps, feed and cameras and other expenses as they occur. We are continuously researching and learning more about both red and grey squirrels and have accumulated an extensive knowledge and skill base which we are very happy to share with anyone who casres about our squirrels.

Why can't they live together?

The two species, Sciurus vulgaris (red) and Sciurus carolinensis (grey) avoid each other. There is no interaction. The greys are heavier and eat more of the available food supply. They can have 4 litters a year, the reds have 1 occasionally 2, and the greys carry the Squirrel Pox Virus (SQPV), fatal to reds. The habitat is changing - reds are being pushed out into monoculture plantations of sitka spruce, where they scrape an existence on tiny seeds. This is insufficient for the greys who colonise the mixed woodland and push the reds out. In general once greys are established in deciduous woodland, the reds disappear. To prevent this, research by Rushton et al (2006) shows that 60% of the grey population need to be removed each year, constantly. 

What are we doing about it?

The situation in Coquetdale is not great, red squirrels are still seen regularly in this part of the valley, but they are declining in number. Greys are now present and breeding throughout.  Currently there are grey hotspots at Callaly, Trewhitt, Burradon and an increased population from Sharperton up to Alwinton. The Northumberland WIldlife Trust Nature Reserves at Holystone have a large Grey population which is not controlled at this time.

To protect our remaining red squirrels we rely on sightings from you. The more detail the better and if it is grey asap PLEASE! You can do this easily via our new website form or by contacting me directly. We use trail cameras to monitor squirrel activity in the woods and where necessary we trap or shoot grey squirrels. Training is provided to our volunteers who help with all of these activities. 

It is not all doom and gloom. There is much to be positive about. At the Animal and Plant Health agency (APHA) outside York they are working on a squirrel contraceptive;  Our job, as I see it, is to 'hold the fort' until such interventions become mainstream and to do that we need your help. Perhaps filling feeders, checking cameras or with admin and social media.

Please contact me if you would like to know more :-

Janet Fenwicke-Clennell



RUSHTON, S.P., LURZ, P.W.W., GURNELL, J., NETTLETON, P., BRUEMMER, C., SHIRLEY, M.D.F. and SAINSBURY, A.W. (2005). Disease threats posed by alien species: the role of a poxvirus in the decline of the native red squirrel in Britain. Epidemiology and Infection, 134(03), p.521. doi:10.1017/s0950268805005303.