North East Scotland
Eradicating grey squirrels and bringing red squirrels back to the parks and gardens of Aberdeen
The grey squirrel population in Aberdeen city is considered an “island population” due to it’s geographic and genetic isolation from the rest of mainland Britain’s grey squirrel population. The species was introduced to Aberdeen city in what is believed to be a single, accidental, introduction event in 1971. Within a few decades, grey squirrels replaced red squirrels throughout Aberdeen city. As their numbers increased they also spread into rural areas along the Dee, beyond Banchory, and the Don, as far as Inverurie, posing a threat to the red squirrels in wider Aberdeenshire and to nearby populations in Moray and the Highlands.
SSRS has been working locally with Aberdeen City Council and wider project partners since 2009 to reduce grey squirrel density and distribution in the north east. Our work to date has been very successful, and we are now aiming to completely eradicate grey squirrels from the north east of Scotland.
With the help of local volunteers, we are carrying out intensive survey and monitoring work across the region to detect remaining individuals and humanely dispatch them.
We are also working full-time at the grey squirrel frontier in the Mearns and north east Angus to prevent further movement north of the mainland populations, with the support of local landowners and volunteers.
Achievements to date
Declining grey squirrel numbers – Evidence has shown a clear fall in grey squirrels across Aberdeen, to almost zero.
Red squirrel recovery – We have seen a steady increase in red squirrels across Aberdeen, from major city parks to back gardens.
Volunteer support – Hundreds of households have participated in our innovative trap-loan scheme which has accounted for a significant proportion of our grey squirrel captures historically. Since 2021, we have recruited more than 50 local volunteers who carry out frequent intensive surveys of all squirrel suitable habitat in Aberdeen city and its environs.
Award winners – In November 2014, the project was joint winner (alongside our partners Aberdeen City Council) in the coveted ‘Species Champion’ category at the Nature of Scotland Awards. The award recognised the project’s successful red squirrel conservation work in Aberdeen and surrounding areas.
How you can help
- Help us monitor the situation in north east Scotland by submitting a squirrel sighting to our website – we are particularly keen to hear from you if you have seen a grey squirrel as every sighting counts at this stage of the eradication process.
- Keep and eye out for our volunteer vacancies in Aberdeen city and in north east Angus & the Mearns.
- Take action for red squirrels by joining our trap-loan scheme
- Send any found dead red squirrels for post mortem to the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Inform your closest member of SSRS staff that you have done so.
Volunteering with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a fantastic way to connect with nature and support your local area’s special native wildlife. Our volunteers are provided with the training and resources they need to participate.
Eradication Scientific Lead