Visitors and residents of Scotland’s first National Park are being called upon to help monitor endangered Red Squirrels in the area.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project are working together to protect and strengthen the red squirrel population within the National Park, which is a nationally important refuge for the much loved native species.
People are being asked to help the annual survey of red squirrels by reporting any sightings of them and grey squirrels online.
Red Squirrels are in danger in Scotland because of the spread of non-native grey squirrels which not only compete for food and space but also carry a disease called squirrelpox which is often fatal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels are carriers of the disease but they are resistant to it themselves.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Wildlife Trust was awarded a grant of £2.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project to enlist community volunteers to carry out practical work in their local area to help safeguard squirrels.
Protecting Red Squirrels is also one of the National Park’s five ‘Wild Challenges’ for Wild Park 2020, the Park Authority’s Biodiversity Action Plan.
Alan Bell, Conservation Manager at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “We are working to protect our red squirrels and by creating good habitats free of grey squirrels we are also encouraging them back into areas where they haven’t been in a while. The annual survey helps us to identify where red squirrels and grey squirrels are and helps us to know where to focus our efforts.”
The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park support the project and the local Project Officer who is based within their headquarters in Balloch.
The annual survey is now underway using feeder boxes to see where both red and grey squirrels are across the landscape.
Mary-Anne Collis, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Project Officer for Argyll, Trossachs and Stirlingshire, said: “Having almost 40 different areas that we are checking both in and around the National Park means over 200kg of peanuts were delivered to help entice the squirrels to come and say hello.
“We really rely on locals and visitors to let us know what is happening so that we can focus our efforts where they are needed. There are still some areas where you can find both red and grey squirrels and that includes some areas of the National Park. While the majority of the squirrels spotted are red there are still a few grey ones particularly on the southern edges of the park. We are very keen to know what squirrels are about and would love people to record their sightings of both red and grey squirrels on our website.”
To report a sighting of red squirrels go to scottishsquirrels.org.uk
If you would like to volunteer or know more about the project you can also contact the local Project Officer Mary-Anne Collis on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07825 972 434.