Public Squirrel Sightings Soar in 2023

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has released the results of its fifth annual Great Scottish Squirrel Survey, revealing that 2023 public participation was the second highest since its inception, beating all previous years, bar the record-breaking pandemic lockdown year of 2020. 

According to the survey, which was conducted between the 2nd and 8th of October and asked for the Scottish public to spot and record all grey and red squirrels, a total of 1334 people took part, reporting just under 2000 red and grey squirrel sightings across the country, almost 2.5 times as many as were reporting during the 2022 survey. These sightings provide invaluable data for conservationists and scientists working on the ground to protect the endangered native red squirrel.

Programme Manager Nicole Still said:

“This is an outstanding increase and fantastic result for red squirrels in Scotland. Every single sighting submitted on our website helps us to understand population distributions across the country and take targeted action to protect red squirrels from their greatest threat, the invasive non-native grey squirrel. We are thrilled to see sightings coming in from all over Scotland, and many hundreds of people responding to our call to take part in this mass citizen science event. We’d like to thank everybody who got involved, we couldn’t carry out our vital red squirrel conservation activities without the invaluable data gathered from the survey.”

Mapping of the records confirms that the Highlands of Scotland remain a safe haven for red squirrels and free from greys thanks to the hard work of staff, landowners, partner organisations and volunteers working along the geographical diagonal Highland Boundary Fault Line to stop grey incursion northwards. The results of the survey also reflect the significant success of efforts in Aberdeen over recent years, with only very small numbers reported from the city and its outskirts. In the South of Scotland a mix of the two species remain, with volunteer groups working hard to lower grey densities in the region.

Grey squirrels were introduced to Scotland in Victorian times and have since replaced the native red squirrel in many parts of the country. They out-compete reds for food and living space and can also carry squirrelpox, a virus that doesn’t harm them but is fatal to reds.

Sightings of both species can be reported year-round at scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings.

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, thanks to National Lottery players, along with other partners.

Latest Articles