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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Red squirrels number on the rise in Scotland, survey finds

red squirrelPA Media

A survey of red squirrels in Scotland suggests that efforts to increase their numbers have been successful.

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey found they were returning to the Aberdeen area and that the number of greys had decreased.

Over many years, the reds retreated further northwards and concerns grew that they could be wiped out.

People are encouraged to continue reporting sightings and feed the red squirrels as the population grows.

The survey confirmed the only red squirrel population in the Highlands is safe and free of greys due to the efforts of staff protecting the Highland Boundary Fault Line, a geological feature stretching from Argyll to Aberdeenshire.

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During the fourth annual survey week in October, 659 participants reported 255 grey squirrel and 510 red squirrel sightings – more than triple the number reported in a typical week.

The data influences conservation work carried out by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, a project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust that has been working to save the species for the last 14 years.

Programme manager Nicole Still thanked the public for submitting “vital” sightings of both species.

“We strongly encourage people to continue to report sightings with us. Just this small act of citizen participation can make a big difference to our efforts,” she said.

Ms Still said the red squirrel population was “thriving” throughout the country.

“[It] is a really promising sign and a good demonstration that the really active control efforts and conservation efforts of our projects and also our partners and statutory agencies have been really successful over the years,” she said.

Vanessa Fawcett from the Red Squirrel Survival Trust told BBC Scotland that gardeners can help with the conservation efforts.

She said: “We are encouraging gardeners who live in red areas or areas adjacent to red areas to start to feed the reds as their numbers grow [and] to start to grow the food that will benefit and supplement the existing food sources for our red squirrels.”

The main threats facing red squirrels are urbanisation, grey squirrels outcompeting them for space and food, and squirrel pox spread by greys.

In the south of Scotland, a mix of the two species remains, but volunteers are working to keep numbers of grey squirrels low.

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