ONE of Scotland’s Big 5 species, the red squirrel was once widespread across the UK. Since their introduction from the US in the early 20th century, larger grey squirrels have outcompeted the reds, with the British grey population currently estimated at over 2.5 million.

Only between 140,000 and 161,000 reds are thought to remain.

Around 85% of these live in Scotland, while, without action, the small populations found in the north of England, Northern Ireland, Merseyside and Wales may disappear within a decade, according to Red Squirrel Survival Trust.

Red squirrels are also threatened by habitat loss. Usually spending three-quarters of their time in woodlands of oak, pine and other conifers, reds move from tree to tree and do not cross open ground; that is, the tufty creatures do not travel between the pockets of woodland now typical of Britain’s ecology.

Research suggests pine martens could help protect red squirrel numbers by preying on greys where the species overlap.

Another ally is the human population which can help by recording sightings as part of a long term study by Saving

Scotland’s Red Squirrels to help our understanding of how squirrel populations are changing over time and how best to

direct conservation efforts.

To mark National Red Squirrel Week between September 23 and 29, conservation group Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is calling on people to be on the lookout for both red and grey squirrels. Sightings should be recorded via

Gight Wood

Methlick, Aberdeenshire

Situated on a steep slope down to the River Ythan, Gight Wood is one of the last remnants of ancient woodland in Aberdeenshire. Parking is available at the forest gate on the B9005, and there’s a squirrel viewing screen close by.

You’re also likely to see reds from the main hide at the Huntly Peregrine Centre, while other red squirrel spots in Aberdeenshire include the 27-acre Carnie Woods, home to around 20.

In July this year, a member of the

public spotted a red in a garden north of Duthie Park, one of the closest sightings to Aberdeen city centre recorded

since Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels was set up in 2010.

The Hermitage

Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross

The towering Douglas firs found at the Hermitage are among the tallest trees in Britain, and red squirrels can be seen darting around the tree tops and branches of this attractive wooded glen, owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

The NTS has teamed up with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels to explore red squirrel feeding signs, dreys (nests) and the impact of the grey during a session taking place in the early morning, the creatures’ most active part of the day.

September 25, The Hermitage, Dunkeld, 7.30am to 9am, £6.

Solway Forests

Dumfries and Galloway

Covering the forests that stretch along the coast from Dumfries to Dalbeattie, the Solway Forests Red Squirrel Network was started in August 2017 by a group of local residents concerned about increasing grey squirrel activity.

Over in the Esk Valley, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is setting up the Esk Valley Red Squirrel Network, which has a free meeting on September 24 for all those interested in getting involved with red squirrel conservation.

September 24, Canonbie Parish Church, 7pm to 8pm, free. For more info or to book contact Sarah Cooper at

Glen Finglas

Stirlingshire, Trossachs National Park

The dramatic landscape, an age-old inspiration to countless writers and artists, is now the largest site owned by the Woodland Trust.

Its ancient woodlands are home to abundant wildlife, including red squirrels, foxes, badgers, red and roe deer, otters, voles and pine martens.

Galloway Forest Park

Dumfries and Galloway

The extensive conifer forests make the 300- square-mile park a sanctuary for red squirrels and many other native species.

Designated as a red squirrel priority woodland, trails from Kirroughtree visitor centre lead to hides where you may also spot more elusive residents such as nightjars, water voles and otters.