Protecting red squirrels in South Scotland ‘challenging’

Work continues to save the red squirrel
Work continues to save the red squirrel

The population of red squirrels in southern Scotland remains under threat, bucking the trend across the rest of the country.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has been monitoring squirrel populations in the parts of the country where red squirrels are most threatened by the spread of non-native grey squirrels.

Previous survey results have indicated that red squirrel populations in the project’s focal areas had stabilised, a sign that with continued effort from conservationists and volunteers, the decline of Scotland’s core red squirrel populations can be halted.

Protecting red squirrels in South Scotland is challenging because grey squirrels are spreading south from the Central Belt and north from across the border. Grey squirrels also favour broadleaved trees such as oak and beech, which are more common in South Scotland’s woodlands.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels’ work in South Scotland is focused on the most defendable red squirrel populations.

Encouragingly, red squirrels are still found in many areas where the project has been working alongside land managers, with the support of rural development grants and local volunteers; including the Annan Valley, Glenkens, the Upper Tweed and in the catchments of the rivers Teviot, Rule and Liddle.

Dr Mel Tonkin, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project manager said: “Grey squirrels have continued to spread in some parts of southern Scotland, particularly in the eastern Borders and in the Nithsdale area of Dumfriesshire.

“It is vital that the work we do in priority areas is stepped up to make sure that the red squirrel populations in these areas remain healthy.”

The 2018 Squirrel Survey report can be viewed at scottishsquirrels.org.uk/publications