© Bob Cartwright

Rusland's Reds

Restoring the predominance of the native red squirrel in the scheme area by reducing competition from the grey squirrel.

The overall scope and purpose of the Rusland Reds project is to restore the predominance of the native red squirrel throughout the scheme area by reducing competition from the grey squirrel, which is a non-native, invasive species.

This project aims to:

  • Assess and monitor the existing red squirrel population in the Rusland Horizons scheme area.
  • Identify and control the threat to red squirrels caused by grey squirrels and minimise the damage they cause to the woodland environment.
  • Explain the dynamics and practicalities of squirrel conservation to the local community and visitors.


  • Better managed woodland for wildlife, particularly red squirrels, and timber.
  • Better understood woodland in terms of continued monitoring and recording of red squirrel populations.
  • Volunteers have developed skills in monitoring and recording red squirrels and safe, humane control of grey squirrels.
  • People have a greater appreciation of the heritage value of woodlands, the value of our native red squirrels and the threats caused by non-native invasive species.
© Bob Cartwright

So far so good...

Update June 2017:...

  • 8 training sessions held.
  • 36 volunteers recruited and inducted.
  • 19 landowners engaged.
  • 50 of woodland under active squirrel management
  • 8 information events held for local people and visitors
  • Media publicity on radio and in newspapers.

Did you know?

  • The red squirrel is our only native squirrel. The grey was introduced from North East America in the 1870s.
  • Red squirrels have been seen this year near Rusland and in Grizedale Forest.
  • Red squirrels are now an endangered species but at one time could be found all over the UK. Without action red squirrels could become extinct in England within a decade.
  • The grey squirrel is the primary cause of the red squirrels' decline. They're bigger than the red and almost twice the weight. They spread squirrel pox virus that is fatal to reds and first recorded in Cumbria in 1998.
  • Grey squirrels damage trees by eating the bark and will raid birds' nests for their eggs and chicks.


Project Lead

Westmorland Red Squirrel Society

The Challenge

The decline of the native red squirrel has been rapid and accelerating in the last couple of decades, and Cumbria is one of the areas currently at the front line of survival for this species. The Rusland Horizons area has enclaves of the much loved red squirrels, but the encroaching American grey squirrels and the virus they spread are on the increase in the area, generally.

Scientific evidence from Natural England, the Forestry Commission and Red Squirrels Northern England confirms that greys out-compete the reds for available food, out-breed the reds (providing up to three litters of 4-6 kittens each year) and transmit squirrel pox virus, which is fatal to reds. Grey squirrels also cause significant damage to trees by stripping bark, which can discourage owners from tree planting and managing their woodlands, and are known to predate the eggs of many of our woodland birds.

Our Approach

In general terms the area offers good habitat for red squirrels, but also for greys. Good woodland management and tree husbandry, if carefully designed and managed in sympathy with the needs of red squirrels, offers the best chance for their long term survival. This project dovetails with the other woodland projects in the scheme.

Westmorland Red Squirrel Society are working with landowners and volunteers to install and monitor squirrel feeders and trail camera to gather information on squirrel sightings. Through guided walks and talks, Westmorland Red Squirrel Society are raising awareness of the plight of the red squirrel and encouraging the public to report squirrel sightings. Data will be stored by Red Squirrels Northern England for future use and management.

Contractors and landowners are controlling grey squirrels and creating and maintaining habitat for red squirrels.

Can You Help?

We need volunteers

Unless marked as optional, all fields are required

Your Details

Interested in multiple projects? Click here

© Rusland Horizons 2017. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons is a Landscape Partnership funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund