“Last Red Squirrel in Scotland” – This is the attention grabbing headline being used by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in its campaign to save the endangered Red Squirrel in Scotland. The villian of the piece is the Grey Squirrel, an American alien introduced to Britain in the 1800s and now out-competing our native Red Squirrel.
Grey Squirrels spreading northwards from England carry squirrel pox, which is harmless to Greys but lethal to Reds.
Scottish populations of Greys are thought to be pox free, therefore the aim of the campaign is to stop the English population of Greys from reaching Scotland.
People are being asked to report Red Squirrels to SWT via their website to enable planning of the control of this disease which threatens to wipe out Red Squirrels entirely from the UK.
Already there are some conservationists who believe we will only have populations of Red Squirrels on islands in future. Some lochs have wooded islands which hold Red Squirrels and some of our larger offshore islands such as Mull and Skye have Red Squirrels. It may prove easier to prevent Grey Squirrels reaching these island populations of Reds. This would mean the extinction of Red Squirrels on the Scottish mainland.
However the Scottish Wildlife Trust believes it can put in place precautions to prevent this situation.
These precautions may involve culling some Grey Squirrels and immunising others, a massive and expensive task.
Public help is vital both in reporting where Red Squirrels are and in supporting this campaign.