Conservation and Strongholds

Red Squirrel Reserves and Strongholds

17 large plantation conifer forests in northern England have been designated to help red squirrel conservation. Each reserve (approximately 200 hectares of woodland) is surrounded by a 5km area called a buffer zone (which help us to protect the reserve from approaching grey squirrels). Together these make up the “Strongholds”.

The 17 reserves are:

Northumberland - Kyloe, Uswayford, Kidland, Harwood, Raylees, Kielder, Dipton/Dukeshouse, Healey/Kellas, Slaley/Dukesfield;

Cumbria - Greystoke, Whinfell, Whinlatter, Thirlmere, Garsdale/Mallerstang;

North Yorkshire  - Greenfield, Widdale;

Merseyside - Sefton.

Our red squirrel conservation strategy now focuses on protecting red squirrel populations in these Strongholds, by working with a range of partners to control grey squirrels within and beyond these Stronghold forests. We monitor the impact of this control work biannually, adapting our control activity in response.

This work complements the enormous effort being made by volunteer groups and private landowners throughout northern England. These endeavors are contributing to the maintenance of red squirrel range in England as shown in the 2009 map of red squirrel records submitted by the public shown below.

This approach has been developed following many years of research by leading scientists in the field and is widely accepted as the only conservation option that provides long-term hope for the red squirrel on mainland England. The same approach also adopted in parts of Scotland and Wales.