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Visitors to and residents of Scotland’s first national park are being called upon to help monitor endangered red squirrels in the area.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project are working together to strengthen the red squirrel population within the national park, a nationally important refuge for the native species.
People are being asked to help the annual survey of red squirrels by reporting any sightings of them and grey squirrels online.
Red squirrels are in danger in Scotland because of the spread of non-native greys, which not only compete for food and space but also carry a disease called squirrelpox which is often fatal to reds. Greys are carriers of the disease but are resistant to it.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Wildlife Trust was awarded a grant of £2.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project to enlist community volunteers to carry out practical work.
The annual survey is now under way using feeder boxes to see where both reds and greys are across the landscape. Mary-Anne Collis, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project officer for Argyll, Trossachs and Stirlingshire, said: ‘Having almost 40 different areas that we are checking both in and around the national park means more than 200kg of peanuts were delivered to help entice the squirrels to come and say hello.
‘We rely on locals and visitors to let us know what is happening so we can focus our efforts where they are needed. There are still some areas where you can find both red and grey squirrels and that includes some areas of the national park.
‘While the majority of the squirrels spotted are red, there are still a few grey ones particularly on the southern edges of the park. We are very keen to know what squirrels are about and would love people to record their sightings of both red and grey squirrels on our website.’