Claudia Beamish, MSP for South Scotland and Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change, visited West Leas near Denholm in the Borders to learn about Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels. West Leas lost its red squirrels to competition from grey squirrels, but thanks to grey squirrel control by the national red squirrel project and dedicated local landowners, they now have thriving red squirrel populations once again.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a project to help conserve Scotland’s red squirrel population. The red squirrel is native to the UK, but face the risk of being wiped out completely if we do not continue to act. Its main threats are competition from the non native grey squirrel and the squirrelpox virus, carried by grey squirrels but deadly to reds.
Speaking following the visit, Claudia Beamish MSP said: “I was delighted to get the opportunity to go out with project workers to learn about the important work they are doing to protect red squirrels.
“Fantastic work has been done in West Leas to control the grey population and to bring native reds back to the area. The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel species and is part of our heritage. It is hugely important that steps are taken to protect the species from non-native greys. The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project relies on the support of volunteers to monitor squirrel populations. If you are interested in helping, you can find out how by visiting www.scottishsquirrels.org.uk.”
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Project Manager Mel Tonkin said: “It is great that the Shadow Environment Minister is taking such an interest in our work and has been able to see some positive results of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project on the ground.
“We owe our success in this area to the co-ordinated approach to landscape-scale trapping by local landowners, supported by grant funding under the Rural Development Programme but often contributing over and above their funded work.
“The work must be continued if we are to continue to protect our native species from the deadly effects of the squirrelpox virus in other parts of the Borders and, ultimately, the rest of Scotland.
“Whilst a vaccine for squirrelpox is in development, it may not be available for use in the wild for many years yet. In the meantime, if we don’t carry on protecting areas of Scotland like the Borders where our beautiful native squirrel is seen, it could be gone forever.”