There are only about 20,000 red squirrels left in England, mostly in Cumbria and Northumberland.
There are over 3 MILLION greys!
The decline of reds is directly attributable to grey squirrels which were introduced from America in 1876 and whose population has exploded.
The bigger grey out competes red squirrels for food but more critically a large number carry the highly infectious Squirrelpox Virus (SQPV) to which they seem immune but is fatal to reds.
SQPV is similar to myxomatosis in rabbits (although not linked) and is identified in the initial stages by poor coordination and lethargy. By the second week lesions around the mouth, nose, eyes and genitals quickly followed by a pitiful death. (see the photo bottom right).
If you see a sickly red please ring the numbers on the Report sightings page. Sickly reds are highly contagious and, if caught quickly, our local vets have been brilliant in treating them, with many successes.
Grey squirrels are classed as vermin in the UK and it is illegal to release a grey squirrel back into the wild once it has been caught. It is also illegal to treat them for injury or illness, or to keep them in captivity without a licence.
The rest of the country has fallen to the greys and we are now seriously under threat. We are however confident that, along with other groups, we can make Cumbria a sanctuary for these much loved and genetically unique mammals.