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WATCH: Volunteers needed for Great Scottish Squirrel Survey


By Ewan Malcolm

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SAVING Scotland's Red Squirrels (SSRS) is calling on all wildlife enthusiasts to go nuts with a national survey.

Wildlife nuts across Scotland have been encouraged to note their squirrel encounters. Picture: Hazel Thomson.
Wildlife nuts across Scotland have been encouraged to note their squirrel encounters. Picture: Hazel Thomson.

People are being asked to keep their eyes peeled for the bushy-tailed critters during National Red Squirrel Week to help conservation efforts.

Gill Hatcher, communications and engagement officer for SSRS said: "We are asking everyone to go out and enjoy the outdoors, look out for both red and grey squirrels and add your sightings to our online map at scottishsquirrels.org.uk."

The charity hopes to build upon last year's successful survey which saw a record breaking 3160 squirrel sightings in one week.

A red squirrel spotted in Moray chomps on its feast. Picture: Hazel Thomson.
A red squirrel spotted in Moray chomps on its feast. Picture: Hazel Thomson.

The partnership project, led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, aims to protect red squirrels from the spread of the intrusive grey squirrel.

This year's survey - from September 20-26 - has been made even more important after lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic prevented SSRS from carrying out its own spring surveys in 2020 and 2021.

These annual surveys provided vital distribution data from 200 specific locations that could be used to compare the fortunes of squirrels year on year.

Project manager Dr Mel Tonkin said: "Without the spring survey data, we need the help of squirrel spotters more than ever before. If the public can help us collect as many squirrel sightings as last year, the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey will give us another way to compare distribution data with the same period as in previous years.

"Much of our other volunteering work was also suspended during the pandemic so we are very keen to know more about how the situation has changed in the past year. Reporting a squirrel sighting is a simple thing anyone can do to help."

The introduction of grey squirrels in Victorian times signalled the end for red squirrels in many parts of the country.

Moray still maintains a strong red squirrel population and has regularly been used as a source to re-introduce the species elsewhere.

However, sightings of the grey menace have not been isolated to other parts of the country. A sighting in 2015 of a grey squirrel in Elgin demonstrated the species' ability to invade red squirrel territory and reinforced the need for the SSRS survey.

Squirrel sightings alert the National Lottery-funded project to situations where grey squirrels are posing an immediate threat to the local red population.

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey week will also feature a programme of online and outdoor events across the country. More information can be found at scottishsquirrels.org.uk/great-scottish-squirrel-survey.


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