With tufty ears, white tummies and cheeky personalities, it is easy to see why our red squirrels are one of the best-loved species in Scotland.
The Highland Boundary Fault runs diagonally across Scotland and right through the National Park. South of this line there is a mixture of both red and grey squirrels. Very few grey squirrels have made it further north though, so the Highlands have become a stronghold for our red squirrels which we want to defend.
Did you know? Adult red squirrels weigh about the same as a large packet of biscuits (350 grams).
Where red squirrels are hanging on in there, we’re working to safeguard these populations. By creating good habitat free of grey squirrels, we’re also encouraging red squirrels back into areas where they haven’t been seen in a while.
We are on the front line of squirrel conservation in Scotland!
Find out more about our Red Squirrel Wild Challenge Action Plan.
Red squirrels are in danger of becoming extinct in Scotland for two reasons.
The spread of American grey squirrels and squirrelpox
The American cousins of our native red squirrels have spread out in our woodlands and end up neighbours to our red squirrels. Unfortunately they can spread a disease called squirrelpox which is often fatal to our native red squirrels. Grey squirrels are carriers of the disease but they are resistant to it themselves.
Loss of habitat
Following a long history of land use change,the small, isolated fragments left over from Scotland’s once huge native woodland could not support our red squirrels. Modern-day woodland planting is helping to turn this around.
The best areas for red squirrels in our National Park are the forests in the west, such as Glenbranter Forest in the Argyll Forest Park; Benmore Botanic Gardens, also in the Forest Park, has a good hide where you can watch the squirrels. You can also spot them in the Trossachs (for example around Callander) and in places like Balmaha.
The Lodge at Aberfoyle is another good place to see our red squirrels. There’s a visitor centre, red squirrel feeders and a hide.
Look out for pine martens while you’re watching for red squirrels from the hide. We’ve noticed that where pine marten numbers increase, red squirrels increase too. Grey squirrels are bigger and slower and spend more time on the ground than red squirrels so they’re easier to catch and a more filling meal if you’re a pine marten. So this long-time predator of squirrels is actually playing a key role in red squirrel conservation.
You can also report a sighting to Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels.