What We Do 

and Why

Coquetdale Squirrel Group

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 of 12 who meet monthly and a further 20 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 on paid trappers working below Rothbury to try and reduce the pressure of greys coming up the valley.

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. The current trend towards mixed planting provides the ideal habitat to allow the greys into the last remaining red squirrel strongholds. In general once greys are established in deciduous woodland, it is 5 to 10 years before the reds disappear. It takes rather longer in conifer plantations. To prevent this, research by Rushton et al (2006) shows that 60% of the grey population need to be removed each year.

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 the upper part of the valley. The only remaining red only areas are the Kidland and Uswayford forests. Currently there are grey hotspots at Callaly, Trewhitt, Burradon and an increased population from Sharperton up to Alwinton.

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 https://coquetdale-squirrel-group7.webnode.com 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. We also work closely with many other organisations, in particular the Forestry Commission, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Red Squirrels Northern England. They now see this area as the frontline in red squirrel conservation.

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; and the news that we have pine marten nearby is promising although it is likely to be many years before they have much effect on the greys. 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

01669 650326