Callander is home to many iconic Scottish species, which includes our native red squirrel. The annual squirrel surveys have not been able to go ahead this year due to Covid-19, however you can help! Find out more from Mary-Anne Collis from Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project.
Across the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) project has been proactively monitoring squirrel populations since 2009, both to celebrate red squirrels reappearing in new areas and to carefully assess grey squirrel movements. The native red squirrel is in danger in the UK with approximately 140,000 individuals remaining, of which 75% reside in Scotland.
One way everyone can help is by reporting their squirrel sightings (red or grey) on the SSRS website scottishsquirrels.org.uk. This information gives us a much better idea of squirrel distributions across the country and where we need to focus our efforts in the future.
The National Park has always housed red squirrels, but they have temporarily shared many areas with grey squirrels. It is now almost a grey-free zone, thanks to a concerted effort since the start of the SSRS project, and the invaluable help and efforts of many local residents and landowners both in and around the park. Today only a few places see grey squirrels and these are key focal areas for SSRS. One of these areas is Callander. Locally both red and grey squirrels are present and the focus is on actively reducing the grey squirrel population to protect the local reds and to stop greys spreading north and west towards pristine red squirrel populations. Local residents and landowners are helping to create a “corridor of control” to stop greys spreading further.
This year it is more important than ever to report your squirrel sightings. Usually with the help of lots of volunteers the project runs an annual survey in March and April using feeder boxes. They are placed in key woodland areas, and filled with peanuts. To get to the peanuts a squirrel has to lift a lid and climb in. As it does this, some of its hair gets stuck to a small, discreet sticky tab on the feeder lid. These hair samples are then examined under a microscope to see who has been visiting, so we know which squirrel species are present in a woodland without even having to see them.
However, in light of the current pandemic all surveys have been cancelled and so the only way for us to continue monitoring squirrel populations at this time is for people to let us know if they have seen a squirrel locally, either in their garden or on their daily exercise. We welcome sightings from anywhere in Scotland, so please spread the word and encourage others to report their sightings too. During this time, looking for squirrels and reporting sightings is also a great activity for engaging with nature.
You can also bring a piece of nature indoors with some fun filled squirrel themed activities. Why not get crafty with everyday materials from around your home, or explore your garden or local patch with a scavenger hunt challenge? There are a number of activities on the SSRS website here: https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/get-involved/activities/
The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) project is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Forestry, Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. Get all the latest news and updates on the project at: scottishsquirrels.org.uk https://twitter.com/ScotSquirrels; https://www.facebook.com/SavingScotlandsRedSquirrels/
If you have any questions about the SSRS project or how to get involved in the future please get in touch with the local Conservation Officer Mary-Anne Collis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Keilidh Ewen (top and bottom images), Jaclyn Sparks (middle)