Red squirrels in the news this January

Staff at Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS), a project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and partners, have happily started to observe the first sightings of red squirrels emerging from the dreys, becoming more active again in recent weeks and displaying the first signs of mating ready for the season ahead.

But little do these red squirrels realise that they have became quite the famous faces this month, with red squirrel news coming thick and fast in recent weeks:

Firstly, SSRS was happy to announce the results of the 2022 Great Scottish Squirrel Survey on the 21st January, coinciding with national Red Squirrel Appreciation Day. The results of the survey created a snapshot of red and grey squirrels distributions across Scotland by asking members of the public to report as many red and grey squirrel sightings as they could over a single week in October. 659 people took part in total and triple the numbers of sightings were recorded as in a typical week. Squirrels sightings are crucial to the work of SSRS and the project is deeply grateful to all who submitted sightings. If you see a grey of red squirrel you can record them all year round on their website.

In sadder news, earlier in the month, SSRS received reports of multiple red squirrels with suspected squirrelpox in Johnsfield, near Lockerbie. Unhappily at least 10 red squirrels were found dead over the festive period and during the first few weeks of the New Year. Squirrelpox is a virus carried by grey squirrels which appears not to affect them, but when passed to reds is often lethal. It is usually fatal within a few weeks and an outbreak can cause population numbers to crash. SSRS has responded by deploying staff and volunteers to carry out grey squirrel control, and is asking local people to report all squirrels sightings and take down all wildlife feeders for the next few weeks and clean them thoroughly. Anybody who finds a dead red squirrel should post carcasses to the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies for post-mortem analysis.

A squirrel is seen with squirrelpox affecting it's face.
Image shows Squirrelpox © William Lee


There was also great public and press interest in Red Squirrel Appreciation Day, the results of the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey, and the squirrelpox outbreak. SSRS Programme Manager Nicole Still was interviewed for BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors podcast, BBC Scotland’s The Nine, and Radio 5 Live. Several regional project staff members featured on regional ITV/STV news programmes, and the SSRS sightings map was promoted on Winterwatch on BBC Two. Additional features included articles on the BBC News Website, the Herald, the Scotsman and The Sunday Times, along with many more. All in all red squirrels featured in the news over 100 times during January!

To follow the work of SSRS, you can find them on Twitter and Facebook and there is further information on their website. They are actively looking for volunteers in all of their project regions and if you are interested in getting involved you can email them:

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a partnership project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and supported by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players, along with other partners.

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Staff at Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS), a project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and partners, have happily started to observe the first sightings of red squirrels emerging from …

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