A wildlife charity is calling on Scots to take part in the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey and play their part in helping to conserve the ‘iconic’ animal.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, a partnership project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, is urging members of the public to add any sightings of the animal to an online map during National Red Squirrel Week from October 10 to 16.
The campaign, now in its fourth year, is hoping to build on previous years in an effort to protect red squirrels from the spread of the non-native grey versions.
Sightings of the animal help the charity understand how the distribution of each species is changing over time, and allows staff to see where grey squirrels are posing an immediate threat to the local red population.
Grey squirrels out-compete reds for food and living space and can also carry squirrelpox, a virus that doesn’t harm them but is fatal to reds.
Last year saw 1549 red sightings reported in just one week by nearly 1100 people across Scotland – including one cheeky critter who was rescued and freed after becoming trapped inside a Greggs in Perthshire.
Victoria Chanin, project officer in South Scotland said: “Red Squirrel Week is great time to get outside for an autumnal walk. Engaging with nature in this way is very beneficial for people’s wellbeing and adding sightings of red and grey squirrels to our online map helps us to keep track of squirrel movements in Scotland.”
Programme manager Nicole Still said: “The public play an essential role in our work and red squirrel conservation across Scotland.
“The sightings data collected gives us valuable insights on how the situation with both red and grey squirrels is changing. The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey allows us to compare data between years which is really helpful in understanding the impact our efforts are having over time and where more help is needed.
“Acting as a squirrel spotter while you are out and about and reporting a squirrel sighting is simple and means that everyone can have a part to play in conserving our iconic red squirrel.”
Eileen Stuart, deputy director of nature and climate change at NatureScot, said: “With invasive non-native species posing one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity, NatureScot is pleased to support the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project, which is successfully working to help protect the much-loved red squirrel.
“National Red Squirrel Week offers everyone an opportunity to get involved in this vital work while connecting with nature, and we’d encourage people to get recording their sightings and help this important project.”
To report your sightings, go to the online map at scottishsquirrels.org.uk.
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