Illustrator Daniel Weatheritt is the latest recruit in the next phase of the fight to safeguard the red squirrel population in the North East and Cumbria.
Daniel has designed a booklet for Northumberland Wildlife Trust which has 100,000 copies to deliver to homes.
The aim is to win more trust members who will hopefully back the drive to help the region’s red squirrels hold their line against the invading grey squirrels.
Daniel, 27, who lives in Cramlington in Northumberland, provided the illustrations for the booklet, titled The Last Red Squirrel in the North East?
It explains how grey squirrels, introduced into Britain from North America in the 19th Century, now number in the millions while the native red population has declined by more than 80%.
Today, almost all of England’s reds are found in the North, with an estimated 10,000 in Kielder Forest in Northumberland.
A former Cramlington High School pupil, Daniel graduated from Northumbria University in graphic design and set up his own design and illustration business, www.danielweatheritt.com , while also running creative workshops.
He said: “The squirrel project has been amazing. I enjoy drawing animals and it has been the perfect project for me, combining three things that I love - wildlife, drawing and books.
“I wanted the booklet to appeal across a broad age range so there is some humour in it.”
One of the challenges for Daniel was how to represent the grey squirrel.
“Greys are often depicted as non-native bullies but I decided to portray them as foreign travellers,” said Daniel.
The booklet’s message is: “By joining Northumberland Wildlife Trust you can help save an entire species from extinction in the North East.”
Nick Mason is project officer for Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE), which is based at the trust.
He said: “ We are trying to build better long term financing for our work and the more people who join the trust will hopefully mean more backing for the red squirrels.
“We want to get more people behind our red squirrel conservation efforts. We desperately need more help.”
Biffa Award financing for RSNE ran out in the autumn and Heritage Lottery Fund backing expires at the end of the year.
“We want to try and level out the cycle of boom and bust funding,” said Nick.
RSNE, which was set up in 2011, finances 16 rangers who control grey squirrel numbers.
They are part of around 500 individuals in the North East and Cumbria, including volunteers, landowners and gamekeepers, who carry out red squirrel conservation work and grey management.
“The data we have received from hundreds of people suggests that the geographical range of red squirrels in the region appears to be stable at present,” said Nick.
“This is amazing after a century of decline and it seems that grey management works.”