New gains in bat­tle to save Scot­land’s lit­tle red squir­rels

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - Kirsty Mcin­tosh

A £2.4 mil­lion project to pro­tect Scot­land’s red squir­rels is be­ing hailed a suc­cess.

Pop­u­la­tions of the small mam­mal have sta­bilised across Scot­land, with gains in many ar­eas.

The fig­ures were re­vealed as part of an an­nual sur­vey by the Sav­ing Scot­land’s Red Squir­rels project, run by the Scot­tish Wildlife Trust.

Since 2011, the project has been mon­i­tor­ing squir­rel pop­u­la­tions in the parts of the coun­try where red squir­rels are most un­der threat from the spread of non-na­tive grey squir­rels.

Grey squir­rels, which were in­tro­duced to Bri­tain from North Amer­ica in the 19th Cen­tury, out-com­pete red squir­rels for re­sources, and can also carry squir­relpox, a virus that doesn’t harm them but is deadly to reds.

Be­tween 2012 and 2017 a to­tal of 45 sites were sur­veyed across Perthshire, Dundee and An­gus, with 14 show­ing an im­prove­ment.

A mix of red and grey squir­rels were ob­served at seven sites across the re­gion, an ob­ser­va­tion seen as neg­a­tive by the or­gan­i­sa­tion, with only greys be­ing seen at another lo­ca­tion.

Mary-Anne Col­lis, red squir­rel con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer for Ar­gyll, the Trossachs and Stir­ling said: “In the Cen­tral Low­lands, red squir­rels are hold­ing their ground and as a re­sult we’ve started to see them in ar­eas where they haven’t been seen for a long time.

“This is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able to the south and east of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Na­tional Park, which is now pre­dom­i­nantly a re­donly zone.”

Red squir­rels are hold­ing their own in parts of the coun­try.

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