© Bob Cartwright

Rusland's Reds (2016-2019)

The Rusland's Reds project contributed to efforts that aim to restore the dominance of red squirrels throughout the scheme area.

The Rusland Valley area was identified as having a significant red squirrel population and the potential to conserve and increase these populations by reducing competition from the grey squirrel, a non-native, invasive species.

The project put in place active monitoring and recording of existing red squirrels, identifying and controlling any threats to them. The profile of the red squirrel has also been raised amongst visitors and the community, in an attempt to protect both the squirrels and their environment.

This project was assisted by Westmorland Red Squirrels who shared their invaluable experience, knowledge and enthusiasm with a team of dedicated volunteers. They are continuing their vital work within the area, building on the project’s success and progressing with their conservation and protection of red squirrels.


  • Community understanding of the threats faced by red squirrels has been increased.
  • A considerable area of woodland within the Rusland Horizons area is now under active management. Consideration is being given regarding planting and re-planting.
  • A significant number of volunteers and landowners were involved in the project. They developed skills in monitoring and recording red squirrels and safe, humane control of greys.
  • The South Cumbria Squirrel Management Forum has been revived and will continue to support and protect red squirrels in the local area.
  • Numerous red squirrel sightings and more people now actively involved, reporting sightings and managing the grey populations.


Volunteers, and people committed to the red squirrel cause, are always needed whether you are a landowner, land manager or resident living in, or close to, the Rusland Valley.

We ask you to give whatever time you can to help us assess the size and distribution of red and grey squirrel populations and help reduce the threat posed to red squirrels through active grey squirrel control. Key tasks include monitoring feeders and wildlife cameras, reporting squirrel sightings, controlling grey squirrels (within approved guidelines) and contributing to feedback sessions.

We can provide full training and support.  The tasks you undertake will be agreed through discussion, according to your interests and availability.

For further details, please download and read the volunteer roles below.  If you have any questions or would like to express your interest to be involved as a volunteer, please contact Ian Lumsden.

So far so good...

  • 32 red squirrel sightings recorded.
  • 71 volunteers recruited and trained.
  • 6 training sessions successfully held.
  • 61 small and 6 major landowners supporting and involved in the project.
  • 70 of woodland under active squirrel management.
  • 10 information events held for local people and visitors.
  • Video footage from wildlife camera, taken at Haverthwaite Heights. Scroll down to 'Watch' below.

Did you know?

  • The red squirrel is our only native squirrel. The grey was introduced from North East America in the 1870's.
  • Red squirrels have been seen 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, they 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.


The Challenge

The decline of the native red squirrel has been rapid and accelerating in the last couple of decades. 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 greys, and the virus they spread, are on the increase.

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. This can discourage land owners from tree planting and managing their woodlands and are also known to predate the eggs of many of our woodland birds.

Our Approach

In general terms, the scheme area offers good habitat for red squirrels, but also for greys. Suitable 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.

Westmorland Red Squirrels are an organisation working with landowners and volunteers to install and monitor squirrel feeders and trail cameras to gather information on squirrel sightings. Through guided walks and talks, Westmorland Red Squirrels 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 - 2024. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons was a Landscape Partnership funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund until July 2019. It is now being delivered by The Rusland Horizons Trust Limited. Company No. 2133450; Charity No. 519410; Registered Office: Bleacott Farm, Witherslack, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6RZ.