MOD initiative to encourage return of red squirrels to Kirkcudbright Training Centre

Staff from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), part of the MOD, have been working on an initiative to encourage the return of red squirrels to Kirkcudbright Training Centre.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 21st January 2022, 9:23 am
It is hoped a permanent population of pine martens will allow red squirrels to flourish. Pic: Iain Leach
It is hoped a permanent population of pine martens will allow red squirrels to flourish. Pic: Iain Leach

To mark National Squirrel Appreciation Day the team have been working with the Dumfries and Galloway Pine Marten Group to install pine marten den boxes using funding from DIO’s conservation group.

The Balmae area has a population of grey squirrels, which has displaced the native population of red squirrels.

Research has shown that where pine martens have been reintroduced or encouraged, red squirrels flourish.

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Native red squirrels have been displaced by their grey cousins

This is because pine martens are a natural predator of squirrels, but red squirrels are much more cautious of pine martens than their grey cousins.

There is evidence of existing pine marten activity in the area, but it is mostly migratory. The team hope installing six den boxes will encourage a permanent population.

WO2 Scott Maclean, deputy training safety officer for Kirkcudbright Training Centre, said: “Looking after our land and wildlife is extremely important to DIO.

"We’re hopeful this will make a real difference to the ecology of the area by encouraging the return of native red squirrels.

"We’ll be monitoring the pine marten den boxes using trail cameras and if this initiative is successful, we’d like to expand it to more of Kirkcudbright Training Area.”

Dr Stephanie Johnstone, chair of Dumfries and Galloway Pine Marten Group, added: “We are delighted to be working with the MOD at the Kirkcudbright Training Area.

"The site is actively managed by the MOD to improve biodiversity and the extensive area contains a unique mosaic of habitats that provides opportunities for pine martens and many other species to thrive.

“The installation of den boxes will benefit pine martens by providing them with a safe place to over winter and breed, replicating the scarce natural resource of large tree cavities within the landscape.

“The MOD staff at Kirkcudbright have been enthusiastic in their support of our goal to assist the recovery of this native predator and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the local team in the years ahead.”