Red Squirrels United brings together partners from across the UK to deliver red squirrel conservation in five case study areas: Northern England, Northern Ireland, Merseyside; North Wales and Mid-Wales. As part of this effort, Forest Research is undertaking social research to understand levels of awareness of squirrel conservation issues and attitudes towards management methods across a broad stakeholder landscape including local communities and businesses, public and private landowners and squirrel conservation volunteers. The findings will be used to aid the development of locally appropriate campaigns and inform future management planning.
Forest Research are worked with partners from the five case study areas to:
- Understand how red and grey squirrels are valued
- Assess awareness of the endangered status and threats to red squirrels
- Assess awareness of squirrel conservation and control programmes
- Evaluate which management options are most preferred and acceptable
- Compare how attitudes and levels of awareness differ across the study areas and between different individuals, groups and organisations
A repeat survey will be carried out to assess how these findings change in response to campaigns and outreach.
Findings and Recommendations
A nationwide survey of public stakeholders in the UK was carried out with responses from 3758 individuals. The report can be found here A report on awareness and attitudinal data (PDF-1364KB)
Forest Research social researchers have taken part in a number of events to explore volunteer and community attitudes towards red squirrel conservation and all that this entails. An example summary from an event in Shap, Cumbria can be found here.
Forest Research also led a session at the Red Squirrels United Knowledge Fair, held in Northern Ireland 7-8th March 2017.
An article on knowledge and attitudes of squirrels and their management, based on a nationwide survey, was published in 2018: Dunn, M., Marzano, M., Forster, J., & Gill, R. M. (2018). Public attitudes towards “pest” management: Perceptions on squirrel management strategies in the UK. Biological Conservation, 222, 52-63.
Funders and partners
This part of the research is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund
The Red Squirrels United programme is led by The Wildlife Trusts in partnership with Newcastle University, Forest Research, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Red Squirrels Wales, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ulster Wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts of South & West Wales.
Partners aim to maintain grey squirrel-free habitat where it already exists, for example on the island of Anglesey and in Kielder Forest in northern England; extend current red squirrel protection zones in mid-Wales and Merseyside and implement a new whole country approach in Northern Ireland. All conservation work will be rigorously monitored contributing to robust scientific research and evaluation to be undertaken by academic partners.