THEY are perhaps one of the nation’s most beloved wildlife species and now a bid has been launched to save the UK’s last remaining red squirrels with the help of thousands of volunteers.
The Wildlife Trusts, a federation of conservation charities, are launching a major recruitment drive that will see community-based teams gather information about squirrel populations.
Experts believe that, without help, the red squirrel could be extinct within 35 years and the charities are hoping to boost their current squad of 500 volunteers to 5,000. The teams will be tasked with reporting any grey squirrels moving into areas which are currently dominated by red squirrels – the larger, non-native greys are a major reason for the decline in reds.
They will also work with partner organisations in their local area, logging squirrel sightings, monitoring feeders, setting up cameras to film behaviour and controlling grey squirrel populations in certain areas. The data collected will contribute to the work of Red Squirrels United – a UK-wide network of academics and conservationists – and to the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project.
Red Squirrels United programme manager Dr Cathleen Thomas said volunteers are playing a crucial role in enabling red squirrels to thrive. She said: “In most of the UK there are only a handful of refuges left for red squirrels. Without help, this beautiful and treasured creature could be extinct within as little as 35 years.”