A PONTELAND conservation group is calling for new volunteers to help it protect a species of animal under threat.
The task for Ponteland Red Squirrels (PRS) has been made harder in recent months as more grey squirrels have been spotted in the area.
Greys carry the pox virus, which though harmless to them is deadly to reds, and they also compete for food.
Two red squirrels were found with the disease last year in Darras Hall and it was feared that there would be none left in the estate, but there have been a number of sightings this summer.
Red strongholds remain in place at other locations, including land at Ponteland Golf Club and on the route to Blagdon.
The group recently received a funding boost from Waitrose as the store handed over a cheque for £496 from its Community Matters scheme.
And it is now looking to use some of this money to support people willing to trap grey squirrels across Ponteland.
PRS Chairman Sally Hardy said: “The grey problem remains, but things have been more positive in the last few months thanks to a very good breeding season.
“We’re delighted that reds are still being spotted in Darras Hall and our conservative estimate from these reports is that there are seven or eight in the area, so hopefully they will breed.
“We’re looking for volunteers to become grey squirrel trapping rangers in and around Ponteland and with the money from Waitrose and our own fund-raising from our open day and events such as Party in the Park, we will be able to provide some support with their expenses.
“Unfortunately, we continue to get reports of red squirrel road kills so once again we urge drivers to be careful and slow down if they see a red on the road, a verge or a pavement.”
To report sightings of squirrels, or volunteer to be a trapping ranger, telephone 07878 061880 or visit www.pontelandredsquirrels.co.uk