Red Squirrel United
Red Squirrels United is the biggest ever partnership of academics, practitioners and volunteers working together on a scientifically robust programme of red squirrel conservation across the UK.
Led by The Wildlife Trusts in partnership with eight partners - including Newcastle University, Forest Research, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Red Squirrels Trust Wales, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ulster Wildlife and the Wildlife Trusts of South and West Wales - work focuses on nine main stronghold areas of red squirrel populations across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
Red Squirrels United is the largest invasive species management programme in Europe and is supported by the EU LIFE14 programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund of around £3 million. In Northern Ireland, the project is also supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
In Northern Ireland, Ulster Wildlife is working with landowners, local communities and local red squirrel groups across Northern Ireland with special attention to four remaining stronghold areas for reds, were the work will aim to enhance and extend red squirrel conservation in the Mournes, Broughshane and Ballygally, Fermanagh and the North West to help prevent further spread of invasive grey squirrels through conservation and community engagement activities.
We will also be encouraging a new network of volunteers to establish red squirrel groups to provide early warning and surveillance for grey squirrel encroachment into key areas and provide education and awareness of our iconic red squirrels.
Although there is no quick fix to the decline of our red squirrels, by working together we can secure their future.
More useful links
The Mourne Heritage Trust, NI Water and Mourne Park Estate
The Mourne Heritage Trust (MHT) have been working three major sites in the southern Mournes to eradicate grey squirrels to allow the nature return of reds. MHT volunteers and staff started clearing Silent Valley with the consent of NI Water the landowner in 2011. The site and adjoining river corridors were cleared within 2 years with very few incursions since. A network of local surveillance volunteers and cameras has been established to monitor for squirrel movements to date only one red squirrel has been spotted but in June 2018 several animals are being released into the area to start a small breeding population. Two of these animals have come from the successful Belfast Zoo breeding programme.
Work on another site close by has lead to a natural recolonisation of red squirrels following the removal of greys.
A more ambiguous programme was started in 2012 at private land in the Southern Mournes near Kilkeel on the Mourne Park Estate. Until 2012 it was overrun with grey squirrels but the landowner permitted a very dedicated volunteer to control greys across their site and reds returned in 2015. These reds were supplemented with 8 squirrels from 3 sites in other parts of NI. To date this has been a very successful project with a huge amount of local interest. The Estate sees the reds as a potential tourist draw and asset. Of course continuous monitoring is required to watch for greys but once again local engagement means that any spotted within a wide radius quickly get report and control effort begins. Additionally the work of the Red Squirrels United team has further strengthened the future of this project.