Battle on to save Scotland’s red squirrels

More than £1m is to be spent over the next three years on saving Scotland’s red squirrels and protecting routes into their northern strongholds, the BBC News website reports.

The number or reds has been in decline since the arrival of the grey squirrel from North America in the 19th Century.

Greys compete with reds for food and can also carry the squirrel pox virus, which can kills reds in about 14 days.

There are currently about 121,000 red squirrels in Scotland and the country is home to 75% of the UK’s reds.

There are thought to be between 200,000 and 300,000 greys in Scotland.

The £1.3m Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) project is being launched in Dunkeld, Perthshire.

See a map of shifting red and grey squirrel territories

It will develop habitats in which the red squirrel can flourish but will also try to control the greys, which will involve killing them.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), and the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) are involved in the project.

Environment Minister Mike Russell said: “The red squirrel is one of our most beautiful and valuable native species. Therefore its loss would be absolutely unforgiveable.

“Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a true partnership organisation and I am hopeful that its activity will see the red squirrels able to thrive once again in this country and ensure that future generations are able to enjoy them.”

Ron McDonald, from SNH, said that grey squirrel control would be focussed on the key routes being used by grey squirrels to spread north.

“Greys have already displaced red squirrels from most of England, Wales and Scotland’s central belt, but much of the north still remains grey-free,” he said.

“With sightings of greys becoming more frequent in northern Perthshire and Angus, and a population of grey squirrels already established in Aberdeen, it is imperative that we act quickly to protect red squirrels north of the central belt and prevent the grey’s further migration.”

Stuart Brooks, from SWT, added: “I can understand and empathise with those people who do not like the prospect of killing wild animals, but it is disingenuous to say that there are viable alternative solutions to saving the red squirrel in Scotland.

“Work is under way on a vaccine for squirrel pox but it is not around the corner and habitat improvements are a key component of our longer-term strategy.

“To do nothing now will certainly consign our native squirrel to a painful and lingering death.”

The SSRS project is expected to start work properly in April.

Source: BBC News website

Date: 10/02/2009

3 Responses

  1. We have just moved house and have discovered a grey squirrel vising our garden here in Kilmarnock valley area.

    We are concerned as regards the red squirrel in the area catching squirrel pox from them.
    Is it possible to get somene to see if we can do something?

    • Dear Mrs Homes — thanks for your email. Probably the best thing to do at this stage is to contact the Scottish Widlife Trust, which is one of the organisations involved in the scheme. Here is their website:

      Here, you’ll find contact details and further information.

      Hope this helps


      The Take Cover team

  2. Hands off the adorable gray squirrels, you despicable barbarians in Great Britain! The real reason you barbarians kill those beautiful-in-and-out animals is your animosity toward the American people. You barbarians consider those valuable animals the AMERICAN INVASION! The gray squirrels DO NOT eradicate the super-adorable red squirrels. Red squirrels simply run away from the grays, as the latter are stronger genetically. The way to preserve the reds is to focus ON THEM, not to focus murderously on the grays. The number one killer of the squirrels are the bandit-drivers on the streets and roads. Conduct an educational campaign for them to stop killing squirrels. Put up “STOP for squirrels” road signs. Exterminate natural killer of squirrels – raccoons, hawks, falcons, eagles, etc. Protect and feed everywhere the adorable squirrels; ALL OF THEM!

    You are lucky squirrel-murdering bandits I don’t live in your decadent country. If I caught you killing squirrels, it would be YOU who would be hunted by me, after being given one warning to stop.

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