A volunteer group from Glenkens dedicated to protecting the future of Scotland’s iconic red squirrels successfully removed over 400 grey squirrels from the area in its first year.
The Glenkens Red Squirrel Group (GKRSG) aims to conserve reds by controlling numbers of non-native greys squirrels and protecting the native red squirrel in the Glenkens area of Dumfries and Galloway. The new group is among a growing number in south Scotland affiliated to the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project. The group is strongly supported by many local landowners.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a project to stop the decline of Scotland’s core red squirrel populations and to improve conditions for viable red squirrel populations across Scotland.
The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel. Numbers have declined rapidly since the introduction of grey squirrels from North America in the 19th Century.
Greys have replaced the native reds in much of the UK because they compete for food and habitat, and transmit the deadly squirrelpox virus. This disease is fatal to red squirrels, death typically occurs within 15 days of infection.
Brian Fishwick, a volunteer grey squirrel controller for the group acknowledges the controversial nature of the task. He said: “It is undoubtedly an emotive issue, the killing of any animal and some may disagree with it. But, if we want the red squirrel to survive in the Glenkens someone has to undertake this task, and that is exactly what we are doing.”
Since 1952, 95% of red squirrels in England and Wales have been wiped out. Today, 75% of the UK’s remaining population is found in Scotland.
Project Officer for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels in the Southwest, Kate Thomson said: “Our project has shown that red squirrels can survive in the presence of the disease if grey squirrel populations are kept to a minimum.”
The group are on the lookout for new members. Bob Peace the Treasurer of GKRSG says, “Everyone is welcome, not only do we need more grey squirrel controllers but also people to help attend local events or assist with fundraising. However if you are willing to help control the greys, we will provide training in humane dispatch methods.”
The group asks the public to report any squirrel sightings – red or grey – online at http://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings. For further information on the group, contact Brian on Tel: 07771571232 or see https://www.facebook.com/Glenkens-Red-Squirrel-Group