A local community has been assisting a campaign to protect red squirrels.
People in St Cyrus and Ellon are being called on to report sightings of grey squirrels, after some have been spotted in the area.
The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project is urging people to report sightings of grey squirrels as the area is crucial for red squirrel conservation.
The grey squirrel is an invasive squirrel, introduced to Aberdeen first in the 1970s. They out-compete red squirrels for food and living space and some also carry squirrelpox, a virus which greys are immune to but reds are not.
Years of grey squirrel control work carried out by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has already removed grey squirrels from much of Aberdeenshire, allowing red squirrels to return to places such as Ellon and even some parts of Aberdeen.
Dr Gwen Maggs, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Conservation Officer for North East Scotland said:
“This is the first time grey squirrels have been reported in the Ellon area for a number of years, and there have also been two sightings of grey squirrels in the St Cyrus area in recent days.
St Cyrus, and the Mearns area as a whole, sits in a crucial gap between the grey squirrel population south of the Highland Line and the isolated pocket of grey squirrels in Aberdeen. Squirrelpox is not currently a threat in Aberdeenshire, however this could change if the gap between the two grey squirrel populations closes and they become able to breed.
“However, this is not the first time greys have been seen in these areas, and there is no cause to panic. Equally, complacency is not an option and we would like the public’s help to build a better picture of the local situation so that we can focus our work and ensure the grey squirrels are removed to protect the well-established red squirrel population in the region.”
Members of the public are being asked to help by reporting any squirrel sightings (red and grey) on the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels website, scottishsquirrels.org.uk.
The project is also developing a Mearns Red Squirrel Community Group. Anyone interested in getting involved with red squirrel conservation work across the Mearns area can contact Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels at email@example.com.