Reviving the red squirrel population

A red squirrel sits on a branch gnawing at a hazelnut
Published : 21 Sep 2017 Last update : 22 Sep 2017

Threatened red squirrel numbers are thriving against the odds on one of Britain’s largest estates, after painstaking work by one of our dedicated rangers.

The population of red squirrels at Wallington, Northumberland, almost disappeared entirely in 2011 after grey squirrels moved into the area, bringing with them the deadly squirrel pox virus.

However, the estate is now home to over 150 red squirrels and is one of the most popular places to visit by tourists eager to spot the animal, made famous by Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

Threatened by disease and a loss of habitat, red squirrel numbers have fallen in the UK from approximately 3.5 million and those that remain are constantly under threat from non-native greys. This week marks the beginning of Red Squirrel Awareness Week, designed to highlight the decline.

Overcoming difficulties

At Wallington, the project has not been plain sailing and invasions of grey squirrels have led to outbreaks of squirrel pox. But by responding quickly, our red squirrel ranger, Glen Graham, has helped the population of reds to recover and grow again.

Glen says, 'Looking after the reds has become more than a job, and it’s the animals and changing seasons which dictate my schedule. I’m delighted with the progress we’ve made here for red squirrels and hopefully, we can emulate this success at other sites across the country. The reds are so popular with tourists and locals alike, and form a key part of the UK’s woodlands landscape.'

Wildlife hide at Wallington

Red Squirrels at Wallington 

This September find out more about the red squirrels who call Wallington home. Join us for Red Squirrel Week 27 September - 1 October to learn about this rare breed and the work our rangers do to protect them.

Our red squirrel ranger

What does a red squirrel ranger actually do? 

Meet our red squirrel ranger, Glen, who is in charge of food rations, keeping predators away and making traffic signs for road crossing squirrels.