Red Squirrels making a comeback at Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

Red squirrels making a comeback at Castle Ward - BBC News (video)

Red squirrels have been introduced at Castle Ward in a bid to establish a new population in the grounds of the County Down estate.

The first four have been released in the grounds of the 18th Century mansion at Strangford, with more to follow.

The animals were carefully transported by Belfast Zoo and Ulster Wildlife in hay-lined nest boxes to a “soft-release pen” in the estate to allow them to get used to their new surroundings.

The move is part of an work by the National Trust, Ulster Wildlife, Belfast Zoo, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and the Heart of Down Red Squirrel Group to secure the long-term future of this increasingly rare mammal.

Excellent news … :+1:


It certainly is Omah.
I had a cheeky grey squirrel come to my back door a few years ago and it would look straight at the cupboard where i kept savouries,he/she was a sweet little soul with a dark rim running across it`s nose.
It also snuck up to me whilst i was reading in the garden and pinched my peach.
Couldnt help but laugh.

1 Like


Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are invasive pests, not native to the UK.

Grey squirrels are responsible for the decline in native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) numbers.

The Wildlife Trusts estimates there are only around 140,000 native red squirrels left in the UK, compared to 2.5 million grey squirrels.

We have quite a lot of red squirrels bred in captivity here in Norfolk. They started a breeding programme several years ago.

When I was a child we used to eat pigeon pie perhaps the time has come to add squirrel to the menu. A yummy grey squirrel or two for Sunday lunch (let’s face it they are just a rat with a bushy tail).

It’s your duty as a British patriot. You could trap them in your garden and save a fortune on beef, lamb or pork. You know it makes sense.

That should restore the balance.

1 Like

Omah,that was fascinating,thank you.
Why on earth were they introduced in the first place?.
Errrrm,no thanks Bruce.

They were first introduced to the UK from North America in the 1870’s, as ornamental additions to high-class estates and country homes.

Introductions continued until the 1930’s, when the damage they can cause was finally acknowledged and it became illegal to release grey squirrels into the wild.

I can remember, as a child in the 1950’s, visiting woods not far from a large city in the Midlands and being “pestered” by RED squirrels. They were almost tame and were as playful as kittens. By the 1960’s, the GREYS had invaded and they were no reds left … :frowning_face:

Ornamental additions fgs,sounds about right.
I live not far from Sutton Park in the West Midlands, 10 minutes drive max,it may have been that park/woodland you visited Omah.
Fingers crossed the red ones will be back where they belong :grinning:

1 Like

No reds here, just greys & lots of them.
I saw Reds on Brownsea Island, I think this is the only place ‘down South’ that still has them. If any greys try to venture to the island they are immediately culled.

It was the woods on the Kenilworth Road leading out of Coventry - they’re still there:

The traffic has increased a hundredfold since the 1950’s and would, by the 1970’s, have driven the reds away, although there is a large war memorial park on the right which might have provided a safe haven for them.

1 Like

Ah yes,i know the war memorial park well,the visitor centre is very informative.
Sadly they charge you to park now.

1 Like

I’m up for it although I’d be inclined to use my trusty slow cooker, red wine, flavoursome dried mushrooms, bay leaves, Maldon salt and a generous dash of mushroom ketchup just to be on the safe side.

Alas I don’t have a garden!

We had a lovely park near Dunstable with an abundance of wild life. Including these squirrels :~

AFAIK, black squirrels are a mutation of grey squirrels, introduced separately from the USA, in 1912, by the Duke of Bedford for his estate at Woburn in Bedfordshire.

Unlike the greys, blacks have not bred prolifically - there are only 25,000 and they are nearly all in the counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Nevertheless, they represent a threat to the well-being of any reds that share the same habitat.

I’m sure are right. I just found them unusual in the park where we lived.

1 Like

Unusual … and rare … :+1:

Some reds go black in winter but not as black as a black … :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes - my dog was intrigued with them: The greys not so much.

1 Like