The Plight of the Red Squirrel

Please read below and click the link to find out more about The plight of the red squirrel - Penrith & District Red Squirrel Group

The Plight of the Red Squirrel

Nearly 40 years ago, I arranged a meeting of a few landowners and land managers to discuss the impending and inevitable arrival of grey squirrels in this part of Cumbria. I had already witnessed the devastating effect that invading greys have on both forestry and red squirrels as a boy in Hampshire and I was determined that we should prevent the same thing from happening here.

40 years on, I have to say that I am very proud that we have managed to maintain a healthy population of reds and even push back the greys. I think I can justifiably say that, without the work of this group, we would now be a largely grey area and those of us lucky enough to have resident reds would not have them had this charity not been hard at work.

Sustaining this battle however has become a lot more difficult with government funding being squeezed to a point where some 60% of our annual funding has virtually disappeared over the last 5 years. We now have to rely on what we can raise locally.

I personally have worked hard over all those years to try and galvanise people into action on the grey control front, leaving others to raise funds. Now we are on a knife edge and a long-term solution via a fertility control drug is still years away. There is no substitute for our contractor ranger led landscape control over the 650 square miles that P&DRSG currently covers working closely with landowners and many volunteers.

We operate a membership scheme but need a much larger membership, along with corporate sponsorship and further government support to help meet our annual cost that is in excess of £100,000 per year. I have therefore decided to write to try and ensure that at least all my local Cumbrian friends become members and in due course that they too become ambassadors for red squirrels before it is too late.

As you may have seen on the local news, outbreaks of squirrel pox - the virus carried by greys and fatal to reds has recently broken out in a number of areas both here and in South Scotland. This is so disheartening, but it doubles our resolve to keep up the effort.

If you are not already a member , please, please join - I attach a copy of our last newsletter with a membership form. All funds raised go directly into red squirrel conservation - we have no other costs as everything else is volunteer led.

Thank you for reading this and please be as generous as you can.

Yours hopefully

Robert Benson

The Plight of the Red Squirrel