Here’s a wildlife story to warm your heart: a project to relocate red squirrels to their old forest homes is succeeding – with evidence that the squirrels are breeding.
The conservation charity Trees for Life is reintroducing squirrels to suitable native woodlands in the Highlands, from which the species has been lost.
Because reds travel between trees and avoid crossing large open spaces, they can’t return to these isolated forest fragments on their own.
Becky Priestley, Trees for Life’s wildlife officer, said; ‘Early indications are that this could be a real wildlife success story.
‘The new squirrel populations are not only flourishing and breeding in their new homes, they are also starting to spread out into new areas – with squirrels being sighted as far as 15 kilometres away.’
Increasing red squirrel numbers benefits native forests, as red squirrels collect and bury thousands of tree seeds each autumn, which are often forgotten by the squirrels and can then take root.
The project’s initial relocations took place between the springs of 2016 and 2017, with the first 33 squirrels from Inverness-shire and Moray released at Shieldaig in Wester Ross.
This was followed by 22 more released at the Coulin Estate next to Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve near Kinlochewe, and 30 at Plockton, which is owned by landowners including The National Trust for Scotland.