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Home > NIEA > Conserving Biodiversity > Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum

The Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF)

Last updated: 9 September 2014

NISF Squirrel Logo designed by Hanna TisdaleThe Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF) was established to bring together statutory and non-statutory organization  as well as representatives of country parks, private landowners and local volunteer organizations dedicated to protecting the red squirrel in Northern Ireland. The NISF provides an opportunity for the members of the group to feedback details of news, exchange ideas, new research findings, best practice on how to help conserve red and control grey squirrels.  

The NISF is chaired by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency  (NIEA) and has representation from:

Biodiversity Officers from:


Northern Ireland currently has eight Red Squirrel volunteer Groups who work with the statutory agencies and land owners to secure the future of the red squirrel. The map below shows the approximate working areas of the 8 Red Squirrel groups currently operating in Northern Ireland.

NISF, squirrel groups,

There are links to further information on each of groups below:

The NISF have representation on the UK Red Squirrel Forum

The UK Red Squirrel Group (UKRSG) aims to co-ordinate and raise awareness of the conservation needs of our native red squirrel and the action being taken to deliver this under the UK Red Squirrel Species Action Plan. The group has an official responsibility to report the success and progress towards this within the overall UK Biodiversity Action Plan but also helps to develop and co-ordinate advice and best-practice on red squirrel conservation issues for landowners, conservationists, statutory officials and the general public. The group works at the UK level and liaises closely with the country groups to deliver action on a local level.

Members of the NISF also liaise closely with the red squirrel groups in Great Britain.  

These include the Red Squirrel Survival Trust

European Squirrel Initiative

Isle of Wight Red Squirrel project

Red Squirrels Northern England

Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels

Contact the NISF

Red Squirrel Copyright John Doherty


Telephone 028 9056 9551

Write to:

Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum
c/o The NIEA Wildlife Team
2nd Flr Klondyke Building, Cromac Ave.
Gasworks Business Park

Malone Lower
Belfast BT7 2JA.

Squirrel Forum News

Red Squirrel Week 2014  offically runs from 04 October to 12 October, but we have squirrel related events running from mid September through to the end of October.  

Tuesday 9 September The Glens Red Squirrel Group are holding an open public meeting and presentation showcasing their exciting work to date -  7.30pm in Sheskburn House, Mary Street, Ballycastle.

Sun. 21 September 2014 - "Get Outdoors Weekend"  Two Red Squirrel walks in the North East.

           Ballycastle 10.00am. Meet at the bottom of Fairhill Street.

           Glenariff Forest 1.00pm Meet at the Exhibition Centre beside the Tea House.

   --- Booking essential ring or text 07803096729 ----

'Red Squirrel Week'

-  Red squirrel Walk Sunday 5 Oct. 1.00pm. Glenariff Forest meet at the Exhibition Centre.

The Fermanagh Red Squirrel group and West Tyrone Red Squirrel Group are taking part in a couple of events

20th September 2014  - Get Outdoors Weekend – Biodiversity & Red Squirrels Talk and Walkabout Castle Archdale Country Park, Lisnarick Sat 20th Sept. 12noon – 3pm Castle Archdale Country Park is home to a small population of Red Squirrels, which if you’re lucky you may spot feeding along the woodland edge. Clues to their presence can also be detected through feeding signs and tracks. Join the Biodiversity officer on the trail of these shy mammals and find out more about their homes and habits. To book a place on a walk, please contact Chris Elliott at or phone 028-66325050. You are also welcome to drop by the stand at any stage during the afternoon to hear more about the work of the Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group

21st September 2014  -  Get Outdoors Weekend – Biodiversity & Red Squirrel Family Fun Day Gortin Glen Forest Park, Gortin Road, Omagh Sun. 21st September 2014, 2pm -4pm Gortin Glen Forest Park is home to a resident population of Red Squirrels, some of them making their homes or dreys in the proximity of the Forest Classroom. Join the Forest Education Guides and the Biodiversity Officer to learn more about this endangered mammal through activities, displays and talks. For more information, visit or contact the Biodiversity Officer at 077-91034275.


11th October 2014

Ards Red Squirrel Group and the National Trust

are hosting a red squirrel morning at Mount Stewart house and gardens, Greyabbey, Newtownards.  Details to follow.  


12th October 2014

Tollymore Red Squirrel Group

are hosting their annual Red Squirrel Event this year at the National Mountain Centre, Tollymore Forest.  This is a special 10th Anniversary event celebrating red squirrels and other biodiversity issues.  Details to follow.  

Contact the group runing the event for further details.   


Belfast Zoo ‘goes nuts’ for latest arrivals!

picture of a red squirrel perched in a conifer

Belfast zoo logo

18 July 2014

Belfast Zoo first opened red squirrel nook in August 2012 and, while the aim of the project was to provide an interactive and educational experience, the long term hope was for this to become the first captive breeding centre for red squirrel in Northern Ireland. The first kitten was born in 2013 and, in recent weeks, keepers have spotted two infants on the feeding stations.

Throughout the entire red squirrel nook project, Belfast Zoo has worked closely with the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF).  Chairperson of the NISF, Declan Looney, explains “Belfast Zoo is recognised around the world for the conservation work they do with exotic and endangered animals. However, they are also committed to protecting our native wildlife. You do not need to look much further than your own doorstep to witness the plight of species under threat and I am delighted that the zoo has been able to bring this to the forefront of their visitors’ minds. All members of the NISF are working closely to ensure the continued presence of the red squirrel in Northern Ireland. In 2011, more than 90% of Tollymore Forest’s red squirrel population was wiped out by the squirrel pox virus carried by the invasive grey squirrel and, in 2012, research suggested that the red squirrel is no longer present at Belvoir Park. These two cases demonstrate the fragility of this species; however, it is encouraging to see the results of our efforts with the first captive breeding programme in Northern Ireland. We are delighted that this project will potentially provide a ‘safety net’ population of red squirrels.”

Alyn Cairns, zoo curator and chairperson of the Belfast Zoo native species group, continues, “The zoo, NIEA and the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum have already drawn up complex breeding agreements. The hope is that any offspring from the squirrels living at the zoo will supplement the current, safe red squirrel populations or potentially populate suitable new areas. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Glens Red Squirrel Group for their help in establishing the population of squirrels in the nook and for their continued support with the project.”

Belfast Zoo’s red squirrel nook was funded by zoo visitors in 2010. Belfast Zoo would like to thank everyone for their support, without which, this project would not have been possible.

For more information, visit
or email
Adopt your favourite animal at Belfast Zoo.

Belfast zoo, red squirrels; captive breeding,

Belfast zoo, signage, red squirrels,


Belfast Zoo is hosting their annual Native Species Weekend 18, 19 and 20 July 2014

This event is very popular and there are stands from a wide range of groups including NIEA and Forest Service Staff, as well members of Tollymore Red Squirrel Group.  

Belfast Zoo is home to many native species which are found in and around Northern Ireland. In summer 2012, Belfast Zoo also became home to three red squirrels (from the Glens of Antrim) when they formed the first captive breeding programme for red squirrels in Northern Ireland. These squirrels produced their first babies in 2013.  

During the zoo’s native species and red squirrel fun days, there were a number of events and activities designed to raise awareness of local diversity and wild habitats.

Belfast Zoo, red squirrels, squirrel suit,

Thanks to the parents and guardians of those children featured in these photos who gave their kind permission to publish them on this and Belfast Zoo's websites.  


Ulster Wildlife Trust  - Squirrel control opinion survey

Take part in the grey squirrel control debate via this link below:

Grey Squirrel Control Opinion Survey

Tollymore RSG, Squirrel suits, mascots,

A little helping hand...

The Tollymore RSG had a little help from two furry representatives of the local red squirrel community at their Easter Weekend event on the 1st of April.  These guys will be making an appearance at the 2013 National Countrysports Fair being held at Moira Demesne, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, over the weekend of Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th May along with other members of the local red squirrel groups and the NISF.  

Joint Red Squirrel Groups Visit to Cumbria 23-25 Nov 2012.

5 NISF members crossed the Irish Sea in November to visit fellow squirrel savers in Cumbria were they met with members from Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group, Red Squirrel Rangers at CenterParcs at Whinfell, Red Squirrels Northern England and the Red squirrel Survival Trust - They are due to provide an account of their trip to the next NISF meeting in February.