Despite difficulties, recent sightings across northern England said to be caused by a ‘bumper breeding season' raises hopes of expanding red squirrel strongholds and the public has been called to help support the expansion.

Brampton and District Red Squirrel Group has also seen an increase in red squirrel sightings with more people reporting it.

The population faces increasing pressure from habitat loss, competition for food with non-native grey squirrels, and the Squirrelpox virus, which is fatal to red squirrels but can be carried by greys without causing them any harm.

The last remaining locations in England that red squirrels can be found have been named as the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island in the South, the Lake District and Northumberland in the North, and Formby on the Merseyside coast.

Red Squirrel Awareness Week 2020, running from 21 to 27 September, aims to highlight the animals’ plight and celebrate the wonderful work of volunteer groups, organisations and projects striving to save them.

The secretary for the Brampton and District Red Squirrel Group, Paul Bassindale explained a few things people can do to help with the expansion of red squirrels.

He said: "People can report all sightings of both grey and red squirrel sightings to us in our area.

"We cover a large area, it basically goes from west Carlisle up to near Gilsland and then north to Gretna to about Cumrew.

"People could also volunteer to help us and donate if they want to. People can contact us via email or phone."

Talking about the biggest threat to red squirrels, Mr Bassindale continued: "Grey squirrels out-competing them for food.

"Also, grey squirrels passing on the pox virus to them as well as loss of habitat by people cutting down woodlands.

"We are having a lot more red squirrel sightings recently and that is due to the hard work of our volunteers and the help of members of the public for reporting sightings."

Heinz Traut, project manager at Red Squirrels Northern England, highlights the importance of the conservation community and volunteers in protecting red squirrels in conversation with red squirrel food distributors Ark Wildlife, by saying: ”The reason that we have not seen the drastic historic decline of red squirrel range in the North of England, as in the rest of the country, is only thanks to the dedicated effort of the collective conservation community, so it requires people to take action. his could be helping in a variety of different ways, in the woods, at your desk or in the community that you live in."