Please find below a list of events that RSSS are involved with. These events are open to anyone so please do come along and visit the RSSS stand to hear all about what is happening in your area and to find out how YOU can become more involved.
Red Alert South West Scotland AGM – 2.00pm Friday 17th May 2013
Venue: Greystoke Park, 55/57 Moffat Road, Dumfries DG1 1NP
Event: AGM and talk by Heinz Traut on ‘Conserving red squirrels – How you can make a difference’
Booking: If you plan to attend this free event please email Jamie Carruthers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are now on Facebook.
RSSS/Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels have taken a step into the 21st century and set up a page on Facebook. Please visit (and ‘like’) us at www.facebook.com/SavingScotlandsRedSquirrels. We trust that you will enjoy the updates, news, images and short video clips on our Facebook page. Please inform your friends or contacts and feel free to share relevant articles or images.
New South West Project Officer
The Project welcomes Heinz Traut the new Project Officer for south-west Scotland. Heinz Traut will cover Dumfries, Galloway and Ayrshire and will work with Project Officer Karen Ramoo based in the Scottish Borders. The appointment comes as the long-running Red Squirrels in South Scotland project merges with the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel (SSRS) Project to form a national red squirrel conservation scheme managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and Red Squirrel Survival Trust.
SSRS will continue to work strategically in south Scotland as the first line of defence in detecting and containing outbreaks of the squirrelpox virus - carried by greys and deadly to reds – and in halting the northward spread of infected (seropositive) grey squirrels into the Central Belt and beyond. In a cross-border effort to protect the reds, SSRS will also coordinate with the team behind the Red Squirrels in Northern England project.
The underlying aim of the Project remains the same with the two core aims being to:
- Control the spread of the squirrelpox virus
- Control grey squirrels sufficiently to allow red squirrel populations in targeted areas to survive in the presence of grey squirrels.
RSSS is the most powerful tool we have for red squirrel conservation in southern Scotland and it is important we continue this work so the next generation is able to enjoy this endearing species. We could not achieve what we do without help and support from the public and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported the Project and helped in the plight to save Scotland’s red squirrel. Please continue to help save this iconic Scottish species.
Red Alert for east Ayrshire
The project has been receiving reports of red squirrels returning to some former haunts around Ayrshire with the sighting of animals close to Dalrymple and Balchriston – north of Culzean Country Park. Ayrshire has long been home to red squirrels but in the last 5+ years grey squirrels have increasingly replaced the native red across large parts of the region. Previously red squirrels appeared confined to south Ayrshire however these recent sightings bring encouraging news and highlight how widespread the species remains.
These fresh sightings indicate that grey squirrel control is a necessary action which not only protects red squirrels from further decline but allows local populations to return to areas they once inhabited before the arrival of the grey squirrel. The Project believes that with sustained grey squirrel control, there is every chance that red squirrel numbers in the area can recover back to their former levels. However it is no time to become complacent and our efforts to control grey squirrels must go on if we are to see our native red squirrel continue to flourish and fight back.
We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has submitted squirrel sightings. The number of sightings received by field staff, volunteers and members of the public since January 2000 and August 2012 have exceeded 5,300 with over 3,000 red squirrel sighting events. There has been an evident increase in the density of red squirrels recorded throughout Dumfries and Galloway over the years with sightings being reported at previously unrecorded locations and at greater numbers throughout the region highlighting that after eleven years this part of southern Scotland still maintains a strong red squirrel population. In the Scottish Borders red squirrel sightings appear to have remained relatively consistent over the years though there has been a noticeable increase in the number of sightings reported around towns such as Hawick and Peebles reflecting the comeback of red squirrels to some parts of these areas after an absence of 20 years.
The project would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have submitted both red and grey squirrel sightings over the years. We cannot stress how important it is for the project to receive these as without them we cannot target our work effectively and demonstrate the achievements being made. For a recent map of red squirrel distribution click here. Please continue to support us with your sightings so that we can observe any changes over time.
Thank you to Coldingham Community Council
Thank you to all those who attended the red squirrel talk at Coldingham Village Hall on Tuesday 14th August. Red Squirrels in South Scotland would also like to express its thanks to Coldingham Community Council for their continued support and kind donation towards the project.
Culling Reduces Squirrel Pox virus Infection Rates
Research carried out by Newcastle University has demonstrated that landscape-scale culling of established grey squirrel populations does not only significantly reduce populations of grey squirrels but can also dramatically lower the prevalence of squirrel pox virus infection rates amongst surviving animals. Click here to read the news item
Red Squirrels making a comeback in Paxton
The once thriving population of red squirrels at Paxton recently suffered a drastic decline due to a squirrel pox outbreak. This devastating disease is carried by grey squirrels and is lethal to reds. The first red squirrel found to be suffering from the virus was discovered at Paxton House in early December 2011. It quickly spread through the population and by January 2012 estate staff saw the complete disappearance of their red squirrel population. Over the last several months intensive grey squirrel control has taken place along the River Tweed and cross border control efforts between England and Scotland to further protect red squirrels from the incursion of pox carrying grey squirrels is ongoing by the public, private and voluntary sectors working together.
It is heart-warming to the see the commitment of locals in the area who have sprung into action to help save and protect this iconic and endearing species and it now seems everyone’s hard work is beginning to pay off with efforts to control the more aggressive grey squirrels now allowing the reds to regain territory in woodlands close to the initial pox outbreak. These fresh sightings indicate that grey squirrel control is a necessary action which not only protects red squirrels from further decline but allows local populations to return to areas they inhabited before the arrival of the grey squirrel.
The RSSS project believes that with sustained grey squirrel control, there is every chance that red squirrel numbers in the area can recover back to their former levels. However it is no time to become complacent and our efforts to control grey squirrels must go on if we are to see our native red squirrel continue to flourish and fight back from this deadly virus.
Red squirrels are also present on properties around Paxton House with recent sightings being recorded at The Hirsel; Swinton; Chirnside; Duns; Coldingham; Edrom Hutton; Foulden; Ayton and Eyemouth.
Photo taken by David Sutherland March 2012 – Ayton castle
Red Squirrels in South Scotland are grateful for the support of the clothing manufacturer Bivolino who have kindly donated £500 towards red squirrel conservation in southern Scotland.
SRDP Funding Success
Ninety-six landowners in southern Scotland have received Scottish Rural Development Program (SRDP) funding to carry out grey squirrel control over 223,940ha of land! The RSSS project officer and grey squirrel control officers (GSCO) have focused their recruitment efforts at landowners located along seropositive (pox carrying) grey squirrel incursion routes from England and pox virus outbreak areas. The principal aim in obtaining this funding has been to stem the spread of the deadly Squirrelpox virus.
We are pleased to report that landowners throughout southern Scotland are demonstrating an outstanding commitment to the eradication of grey squirrels for the protection of our native reds. With the combined efforts of the GSCO's, the SRDP funding recipients, the Forestry Commission GSCO's and the many invaluable volunteers in our trap loan scheme, we can give the red squirrels a real fighting chance at a long term future in south Scotland!
Immune Response Not Immunity
The discovery during post mortem of a small number of red squirrels (8) that were able to develop antibodies to the Squirrelpox virus has been much in the news of late. The study carried out by Dr Tony Sainsbury of the Zoological Society of London gives hope to the future success of the program to develop an antivirus to the deadly Squirrelpox virus which is wiping out our native red squirrel.
Antibodies are formed by the bodies attempt to fight a disease. The presence of antibodies does not imply immunity to the disease as the press have been keen to suggest, it merely shows that the bodies immune system was able to begin fighting the virus. Usually red squirrels die before they are able to mount an immune response.
The Squirrelpox virus has been present in England since grey squirrels were introduced from America 132 years ago and in that time resource competition and disease have managed to wipe out almost all of England’s red squirrels. The knowledge that a few reds were able to fight the virus is the first evidence that the use of a vaccine may be an effective tool to protect our remaining red squirrel populations.
The Moredun International Virus Surveillance Unit and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine, supported by Red Squirrels in South Scotland are working to develop a future vaccine. It is likely to be at least ten to fifteen years before such a vaccine is ready for use so in the mean time it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure the survival of our red squirrels.