Castle Carrock . . . a beautiful Cumbrian village in the North Pennines

Red Squirrels in Castle Carrock

Red Squirrel on WallOver the past 5 years I have been involved in voluntary work with the local ‘Brampton and District Red Squirrel Group’. I believe that it is necessary to take action to try and hold off the decline in the population of our native Red Squirrels.

The main reason for the decline has been the spread of Grey Squirrels throughout large parts of Britain following their introduction from the United States in the 19th century. The Grey Squirrel out-competes the Red Squirrel for food and is also responsible for the spread of the ‘para pox’ virus (SQPV). The virus causes little or no problem to the Grey Squirrel but if it is passed to the Red Squirrel it results in a long and agonising death of the animal, usually within 15 days from onset. There is no vaccine available to treat the virus at this time and if the virus is passed on to a Red Squirrel, the disease can quickly devastate a large population. During the past month (July-August 2014) I have been dealing with an outbreak of SQPV in an area of woodland over by the River Eden. Although the virus did result in the death of at least 1 Red Squirrel, it was noticed at an early stage and I am pleased to say that there is still a thriving population of Reds there, with no further cases of SQPV. This is a clear example of how very important it is to report the sightings of Grey Squirrels or sick Red Squirrels.

In recent years Grey Squirrels have been seen more frequently in, and around, Castle Carrock, resulting in fewer sightings of Red Squirrels. This is one reason why I became an active member of the Brampton Red Squirrel Group. At this moment in time the only solution is to trap, and humanely dispatch, the greys, and this is what I do, generally within a 3-mile radius of Castle Carrock. To date (August 2014), I have trapped, and shot, over 250 greys in this area.

The end of 2013 saw a marked decline in numbers of Reds here. However, following a lot of hard work and greatly-appreciated co-operation by land owners, 2014 has seen the re-emergence of several families of Red Squirrels in some areas in and around the village and this is encouraging. None the less, as the situation stands at present, this can only be a temporary position. Sooner or later, greys will come into the area from other regions when the population density increases there, and where there may be little or no measures in place to control the greys. In other words, I have to continue with my work until, hopefully, another solution is found. But you can help! :-

In order to assist in the control of the greys and the preservation of the reds, please report any sightings of red or grey squirrels. This can be done in a number of ways:-

  • Phone the Brampton Red Squirrel Group on 07968 576455 or 01228 562263
  • Phone the Squirrel Sightings Hotlineon07878 061880 (Please leave a message)

A map reference of the sighting would be helpful when reporting, but the most important thing is that sightings are reported.

In addition to reporting sightings, if greys have been seen on your land, you can help by giving permission for traps to be placed.

Another Red Squirel on Wall

Also, you could consider making a donation to this cause:-

  • by telephone – to pay by debit or credit card call Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST) on 01434 345757 during office hours.
  • by post – send a cheque made payable to ‘B & DRSG’, to B & DRSG, c/o Woodside, Armathwaite, Cumbria CA4 9SX

And finally, you could assist by becoming a volunteer trapper!

Paul Bassindale