North East Scotland
Bringing red squirrels back to the parks and gardens of Aberdeen
Grey squirrels were introduced to the leafy parks and gardens of Aberdeen in the 1970s, and soon replaced red squirrels across the city. As their numbers increased grey squirrels began spreading into rural areas, posing a threat to the red squirrels in wider Aberdeenshire and to nearby populations in Moray and the Highlands. Fortunately, these grey squirrels do not carry the deadly squirrelpox virus, and are currently separated by tens of kilometres of landscape from the grey squirrels in the Central Lowlands.
The project aims to reduce grey squirrel numbers in north east Scotland to virtually zero. With the help of local volunteers, we are carrying out intensive survey and monitoring work across the region to detect remaining populations of grey squirrels and remove them.
We have established a red squirrel protection network of control staff, landowners and households delivering co-ordinated and targeted landscape-scale grey squirrel trapping. If successful, we hope to reach a point where minimal monitoring and responsive grey squirrel control will be all that’s required to keep red squirrels thriving once more.
Achievements to date
Declining grey squirrel numbers – Evidence has shown a clear fall in grey squirrels across Aberdeen, to almost zero in some target areas.
Red squirrel recovery – We have seen a steady increase in red squirrels across many parts of Aberdeen, from major city parks to back gardens.
Landowner support – We are helping landowners access Scottish Rural Development Programme funding to support grey squirrel control.
Volunteer support – Hundreds of households participate in our innovative trap-loan scheme and, year-on-year, Aberdeen’s residents account for a significant proportion of our grey squirrel captures. Local volunteers also contribute to our survey and monitoring work across Aberdeenshire.
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
- Get involved in citizen science by taking part in our spring surveys
- Take action for red squirrels by joining our trap-loan scheme
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.
Landowners in certain areas can control grey squirrels under Forestry Grant Scheme funding, or join the project’s trap-loan scheme. Woodland owners, meanwhile, can adjust the management of their woods to benefit red squirrels. Please contact your local Conservation Officer for more information.
Dr Gwen Maggs