Nov 05 2019
Red Squirrels return to Ledmore and Migdale
George Anderson, our Scotland PR and Communications Officer, reporting from this exciting project:
Red Squirrels are back at Ledmore and Migdale after an absence of between 15 and 20 years.
Ledmore and Migdale is our most northerly site. It is a stunning mix of pine and oak woodland, and there are no grey squirrels, so it should be red squirrel nirvana. So why no reds?
Our native squirrels cannot move far across open ground. When the highlands were covered in woodland from coast to coast the animals could move around freely, and fill in any local population gaps as they arose. These days there are just fragments of woodland left. If there is a local extinction – from a disease outbreak, harsh weather, or just a particularly skilled bird of prey with a taste for ginger – there is no way for the species to come back without assistance.
The charity Trees for Life has been moving squirrels around to recolonize various highland sites, and we partnered with them to return reds to Ledmore and Migdale. Ten captured in well-populated woods around Inverness and Moray have been released so far, with plans for a further ten or so in the coming weeks.
Their arrival has been aided by our “Squirrel Squad” of local volunteers who will be monitoring the animals over the coming years and feeding them for a few months while they settle in. With 19 volunteers that is nearly one per squirrel – platinum service!
Some brilliant new interpretation has gone in to reflect the work, plus some lovely squirrel artworks. It has created a real buzz of interest in the wood and we have had lots of families through for tours and education work.
As the threat of greys moving up from the south continues to loom, its important to have a resilient population of red squirrels across as many suitable highland woods as possible.
The squirrels arrive on site in wooden boxes filled with straw. These are fixed to trees and an exit hole is plugged with moss. The squirrels are left to emerge in their own time – usually overnight.
We have been trying to get footage of this “moment of truth” with trail cameras – but the squirrels are so small and move so fast they are failing to trigger the equipment! Nevertheless – a video of the translocation is in development and we already have some great footage and still photos. Many thanks to volunteer Lynda Simpson who took the shots above.