Red squirrels at risk as greys spread into Mearns area

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is appealing for help to stop the spread of grey squirrels into the Mearns region of Aberdeenshire.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:53 am
Volunteers are being sought to help protect red squirrels from an invasion of their grey cousins from Angus.
Volunteers are being sought to help protect red squirrels from an invasion of their grey cousins from Angus.

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, 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.

Monitoring Officer for North East for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Sarah Woodfin said: “Grey squirrels moving north from Angus 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.

“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.

“There are a number of ways that people can help. We need to recruit volunteers to support our important work to protect red squirrels in the Mearns. We also want 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 Dee and Don, this population of grey squirrels is now largely contained within Aberdeen city limits and red squirrels are increasingly seen in the city’s parks and gardens.

For more information about volunteering with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels visit scottishsquirrels.org.uk