Save Scotland’s Red Squirrels – How You Can Help!

The red squirrel is an icon of Scotland – and many are working hard to help protect it. The Scottish Wildlife Trust has launched Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels as a project to help stop the decline of Scotland’s red squirrel populations. Working closely with local communities, the project seeks to improve conditions for red squirrels across Scotland, and combat the spread of the non-native grey squirrel …

The project is a partnership led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and includes Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Red Squirrel Survival Trust and RSPB Scotland. The partnership is also supported by an extensive network of over 400 landowners covering well over 4,000 square kilometres – and the project website has an interactive map that enables all to plot where reds have been seen. You can report sightings via this link – here’s a recent image to show the engagement …

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The farms and multitude of landowners working in partnership are making a difference. One of the biggest successes has been in the Scottish borders at Torwoodlee. In the same family since 1501, the Pringles are passionate about the local wildlife and its habitat. Owner, James Pringle, has the red squirrel at the top of the list. Over recent years, the invasive grey has has a detrimental impact of the reds’ space, food and habitat – and so Torwoodlee decided to act. They planted small-seeded native trees and shrubs and have worked hard to control the greys. Today? Red squirrels are back – and in numbers. Damage from greys to hardwood trees is almost non existent – and the Torwoodlee team are managing woodland and wildlife corridors to best support the reds.

The images above are courtesy of Saving Scotland Squirrel’s Facebook page including Andy Wightman MSP who chatted with project staff at an event earlier this year.

 

The Borders project is encouraging others to act, but all accept that none of this is ‘quick win’ stuff. The investment is in time, knowing that long-term commitment – especially in controlling grey squirrels – is a small price to pay for the wonder of having red squirrels in your treetops. In Ayrshire, Sorn Castle is well known as a place where people say ‘I do’ … mainly for those choosing to tie the know at this magical wedding. But the ‘I do’ attitude extends to the estate’s work with the local community – in particular with the not-for-profit East Ayshire Woodlands project. Over many years, Sorn has entrusted the management of its walled garden to EAW who grow willow for use in educational work – especially for building structures and sculptures within local schools as well as with mental health support work. Sorn also works with EAW on managing a network of paths for visitors to enjoy local woodland. Red squirrels have not been spotted at Sorn for some time, but all are working hard and being proactive in controlling grey squirrels – and managing the local habitat to encourage the red squirrel population to grow.

 

How can you help?

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is working hard to protect Scotland’s remaining red squirrels from the threat of extinction; however, they acknowledge they cannot continue this vital work without the help of those who love and enjoy Scotland’s countryside – people like you. From submitting a red or grey squirrel sighting to volunteering, from making a donation or taking part in a trap loan scheme, there are plenty of ways to get involved and help out. The list of links below is just a starting point …

A note from Project Manager, Dr Mel Tonkin …

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given initial approval for almost £2.5 million to help deliver the red squirrel conservation programme from 2017-2022. This is obviously fantastic news and it shows the scale of the work still to be done – but also shows great confidence in the project’s strategy. To get us closer to releasing this game-changing funding from HLF and fulfilling our vision, we must raise the £40,000 needed each year to complete the funding. Every precious gift towards our annual £40k target helps unlock this vital £2.46 million from HLF.

It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t enchanted by red squirrels – one of Scotland’s most popular native mammals. Nine out of ten Scots agree – red squirrels help to make our countryside special; but they’re under real threat. Red squirrel numbers have fallen drastically since the introduction of the larger non-native grey squirrel. Greys are able to out-compete reds for food. Many grey squirrels also carry Squirrelpox – a virus lethal to reds but to which the greys are immune.

Slowly but surely, we’re combatting the threat posed by the non-native grey squirrel. The experience gained by staff and volunteers over the past 7 years has fed into a concrete plan of action that we are confident can secure the future of red squirrels in Scotland. This plan has been strategically tailored to different areas of the country. Every gift counts toward our target and could help unlock almost £2.5 million from HLF. Your gift really could make the difference. You can make a donation via this link – Save Scotland’s Red Squirrels

 

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

For more information on Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, contact Dr Mel Tonkin, Project Manager, at mtonkin@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk