Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is appealing for help to stop the spread of grey squirrels into the Mearns region of Aberdeenshire.
Recently a number of grey squirrels have been found north of the River North Esk in areas including Marykirk, St Cyrus and Benholm. Without urgent action, local red squirrel populations in the Mearns are at risk. The highly invasive grey squirrel could also spread further into the Grampians and the Highlands, threatening Scotland’s largest populations of red squirrels.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is encouraging people to report sightings of both red and grey squirrels online. The project is also looking for volunteers in the area to support its vital conservation work.
Sarah Woodfin, Monitoring Officer, North East Scotland for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels said:
“Grey squirrels moving north from Angus into Aberdeenshire are a serious threat to local red squirrels, as well as the core Scottish population in the Highlands. The recent reports from the Mearns are worrying and we need help to stop the spread of grey squirrels in the area.
“Grey squirrels threaten red squirrels through competition for resources. Most worryingly they could also potentially bring the deadly squirrelpox virus, which isn’t currently present in Aberdeenshire, with them. This virus doesn’t harm grey squirrels but it is deadly for reds. It would be devastating for Scotland’s squirrels if squirrelpox is allowed to spread into the north of the country.
“There are a number of ways that people can help. We need to recruit a number of volunteers to support our important work to conserve red squirrels in the Mearns. We also need people living in the area to be on the look-out for grey squirrels in their gardens and in local parks and woodlands. All sightings of both red and grey squirrels are invaluable and can be reported to us at scottishsquirrels.org.uk.”
Since 2009, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has been working in the North East of Scotland to eradicate an ‘island’ population of grey squirrels, which was introduced in the 1970s and is isolated from the rest of the Scottish population. Once widespread in Aberdeenshire along the rivers Dee and Don, this population of grey squirrels is now largely contained within Aberdeen’s city limits and red squirrels are increasingly seen in the city’s parks and gardens.
Grey squirrels spreading from Angus into Aberdeenshire not only threatens the local red squirrel population in the Mearns but it could also jeopardise the project’s success in Aberdeen. The introduction of squirrelpox into North East Scotland could be devastating for the core populations of red squirrels in the north of Scotland.
For more information about volunteering with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels visit scottishsquirrels.org.uk.