New citizen science project to help endangered red squirrels - Trees for Life

Red squirrel sitting on its haunches on a leaf covered stump. It is holding a hazel nut in its paws
Red squirrel (© Scotland The Big Picture)

First Highland-specific survey will cover over 25,000 square kilometres

People living in the Scottish Highlands are being asked to take part in a major citizen science study this autumn, as part of a pioneering red squirrel reintroduction project being carried out by the charity Trees for Life.

The new research is part of a successful rewilding initiative, through which Trees for Life has established 10 new red squirrel populations in the Highlands so far. Over the past six years, the charity has reintroduced a total of almost 200 squirrels at sites across the north, including Spinningdale, Golspie, Shieldaig, Kinlochewe and Plockton.

With Scotland the UK’s last remaining stronghold of the endangered native species, these reintroductions have helped to significantly bolster the north’s red squirrel population. Trees for Life now wants to find out how far these relocated reds have spread out from their initial release sites, and about the total size and range of the Highland region’s entire population.

The charity is calling on the public to report current and historic squirrel sightings via the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels website at Each reported sighting will be fed into a large dataset, supplementing in-person survey work that Trees for Life will carry out later this year.

Becky Priestley, Red Squirrel Project Manager at Trees for Life, said: “Citizen science is a fantastic way to gather information about wildlife populations, especially across a large area like the Highlands. By reporting sightings, local people can provide invaluable information that will help us to ensure a better future for red squirrels. By filling the gaps in knowledge about where this endangered species is found, we can create an up-to-date distribution map to use as a baseline for future monitoring and to identify where future releases could make a positive difference.”

While similar studies have been carried out in other parts of the UK and Ireland, this will be the first Highland-specific survey, covering a total land area of more than 25,000 square kilometres

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Posted On: 14/10/2022

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