Red squirrels to return to the north west Highlands
A small number of Britain’s red squirrel population is set to be relocated to woodlands in the north west Highlands as part of the second phase of a conservation project to boost numbers.
The Red Squirrel Reintroduction Project is looking to create 10 new populations in the northwest Highlands in a bid to significantly increase both the numbers and range of the red squirrel in the UK.
Trees for Life plan to relocate the 70 squirrels to forest areas near Kinlochewe and Plockton, where the animals are currently absent despite the suitable habitat. The relocation will involve removing individuals from Inverness-shire and Moray, however this will only be in small numbers to prevent disrupting established red squirrel populations.
The charity successfully relocated 33 red squirrels to Shielding in Wester Ross earlier this year, with the population breeding during the summer, highlighting the suitability of the habitat for the species.
Becky Priestly, Trees for Life's Wildlife Officer, said: "We are giving red squirrels a helping hand to return to some of their long-lost forest homes. Many Highland woodlands offer the species excellent habitat far from disease-carrying grey squirrels - but because reds travel between trees and avoid crossing large areas of open ground, they can't return to isolated woodlands without our help".
Red squirrels, Britain's only native squirrel, are now considered rare in the UK with only an estimated 138,000 left after the introduction of grey squirrels in the 19th century. World populations are currently declining due to habitat destruction, disease and competition.