Red Squirrel Project

Credit - John Fisher

Lancashire's small population of red squirrels is bouncing back from the devastating impact of squirrel pox. The reds are expanding from their stronghold in the woods on the Sefton Coast. Our squirrel officers and dedicated volunteers are playing a crucial role in this success story...

The red squirrel population in Merseyside and Lancashire has been steadily increasing since the devastating impact of the squirrel pox virus outbreak in 2008 which saw 80% of the population wiped out (see the image of a red squirrel with pox, left).

This virus is carried by grey squirrels which are immune to it, but it is fatal to red squirrels. Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of our volunteers and project officers, the population recovered quickly and has now increased to almost 90% of the pre-pox numbers.

It is our aim that red squirrels will once again become a common sight throughout North Merseyside, West Lancashire and beyond. As a partner in the new Red Squirrels United project, funded by EU LIFE and Heritage Lottery Fund, and with the help of our dedicated volunteers this is now a real possibility.

What is Red Squirrels United?

Red Squirrels United marks the biggest ever coalition of academics and delivery partners working together on a scientifically robust programme of conservation for our iconic red squirrels. The initiative unites eight partners in a four year UK-wide programme.

Here in Merseyside and Lancashire, the funding has enabled us to employ a Red Squirrel Ranger and a Community Engagement Officer for 3 years. This will allow us to carry out targeted grey squirrel control to prevent the incursion of grey squirrels into the red squirrel reserve areas of Formby and Ainsdale, as well as create suitable ‘grey squirrel free’ habitat for red squirrels to re-colonise.

There are still small populations of red squirrels in the towns of Southport and Crosby but red squirrels could once again be widespread throughout the parks and gardens of these towns. Our community engagement officer will be running regular events and training workshops throughout the area and engaging new volunteers so keep an eye on our Facebook page for details.

We also monitor the impact of our work through a bi-annual monitoring programme, carried out every Spring and Autumn. This data, in combination with sightings received from members of the public, is used to track changes in the abundance and distribution of red and grey squirrel populations. The reports are available to view below.

For more information on the red squirrel conservation work being carried out by other Red Squirrels United partners, visit the Red Squirrels United website

If you would like to volunteer on the project we have a number of specificroles, click here for more information on how to get involved, or click on the role description below.

How you can help

If you see a grey squirrel, please call us immediately on 07590 745 862 so we can respond as soon as possible!

Rachel Miller, Red Squirrel Project Officer

Please report sightings of red and grey squirrels to us by calling 07590 745 862 or e-mailing This will help us to accurately map the distribution of both species throughout the project area.

You can also help the great red squirrel comeback by joining your local branch of Red Alert North West. The work varies from monitoring the squirrel populations to engaging with the community at local events, to helping with aspects of grey control. There are local group meetings every season so if you are interested in joining in and learning more, please contact us.

If you are lucky enough to have red squirrels visiting your garden, please clean any feeders and water bowls regularly. Sterilising feeders used by reds and greys will help to minimise the risk of squirrel pox and any other diseases spreading. Also make sure you provide a variety of foods such as monkey nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, apple, carrot and fresh water.

Remember, feeding should only be supplementary. To ensure red squirrels still forage naturally, only provide food every few days.

Bi-annual monitoring reports

You can view the Autumn 2016 monitoring report here.

You can read the Spring 2017 monitoring report here.

You can read the Autumn 2017 monitoring report here.

Project Contact Details

Project Officer - Rachel Miller
Tel - 07590 745 862
Email -

Project Funder

This project is funded by the EU LIFE and Heritage Lottery Fund.