This week marks the start of the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey which calls on people all across Scotland to report their squirrel sightings to the Scottish Wildlife trust.
After Grey Squirrels were reported in the Aberfeldy area the survey comes at a crucial time for Highland Perthshire’s native red squirrel species.
Tayside’s local conversation officer, Ann-Marie MacMaster, said: “Grey Squirrels out compete Red Squirrels for resources such as food and shelter, Grey Squirrels live in quite high densities whereas Red Squirrels don’t.
“And typically what happens is we have a Red Squirrel area, Grey Squirrels start to move in, they’re almost twice the size of a Red Squirrel so they need a lot more food, so they have the advantage on gathering food.”
Several weeks past a campaign was launched calling for the invasive squirrels to be reported if they were spotted in towns and villages across Highland Perthshire.
LISTEN: Anne-Marie MacMaster explains why reporting squirrel sightings is so vital in protecting the species.
Residents who spot a squirrel are asked to report their sighting on the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s website: https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings/
Here an interactive map of squirrel sightings can be found which breaks down into either Red or Grey species.
So far 12,131 squirrels have been spotted, which are prominently Red, and its clear from this map that the majority of Highland Perthshire’s Grey Squirrels are from Dunkeld and moving northward.
Tree’s for Life is another organization which is supporting the campagain, Becky Priestley, Trees for Life’s Red Squirrel Project Manager said: Every reported sighting is citizen science in action – vital for monitoring our reintroduced red squirrel populations and to see how far they are spreading.
“Sightings are invaluable because they help us know whether reds are still present at the original release sites, how far they are travelling to colonise new woodlands, and if they are breeding.”
Squirrels can be reported throughout the year but this week is especially important since it is National Squirrel week, usually this is a good time for spotting squirrels.
For anyone who wants to involve themselves further, the Scottish Wildlife Trust also offer a Grey Squirrel traps loan.
The Trust offers training on how to use these traps so that invasive Grey Squirrels numbers can be reduced in area’s they’re not welcome.