Red squirrels enjoy autumn sunshine as they prepare for colder weather at Widdale reserve in the Yorkshire Dales

Press Association photographer Danny Lawson has captured these wonderful images of red squirrels in a protected area of the Yorkshire Dales.

The species' main stronghold in the Dales is the Widdale reserve in Wensleydale. Here, a small population live in a 'buffer' zone where grey squirrels are culled to enable the more fragile reds to thrive.

A century ago, reds were common in woods and plantations throughout all three Ridings of Yorkshire, but they were virtually wiped out following the severe winter of 1962-63 and the spread of squirrel pox.

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'Bumper breeding season' leads to red squirrel sightings in Yorkshire Dales gard...
There is a viewing area and feeding station

The red squirrel’s recovery in the Dales took off when the late Hugh Kemp and his wife Jane encouraged a small colony around their farm and Christmas tree plantation, Mirk Pot, in a remote part of Wensleydale called Snaizeholme.The National Park Authority and local landowners have funded a viewing area and feeding station, which can be found in a woodland clearing.

There are also now small populations in the Howgill Fells, near Sedbergh, where red squirrel rangers are employed to protect them, and it is the Cumbrian population which is thought to have originally spread to Mirk Pot in the late 1960s.

Last year there were sightings in Hawes, Bainbridge, Askrigg and Aysgarth for the first time in generations, and conservationists speculated that a bumper pine cone crop had enabled young reds to spread out from the refuge area and find new territories of their own. However, it is difficult for them to establish themselves permanently in areas where grey squirrel numbers are not controlled - something which is harder to achieve over a wider area.

Bainbridge couple Neil and Jane McNair, who own Low Mill Guesthouse, even set up a hide in their garden after managing to regularly attract reds to a willow tree and installing feeders.

A red squirrel at Snaizeholme

The Tropical Butterfly House at North Anston, near Rotherham, now also runs a captive breeding programme for the species.

The red squirrels live in a refuge area
The grey squirrel population is controlled to enable them to survive