The Wildlife Trusts is calling for help to gather information about the endangered mammal in surveys, starting on 1 March.
An army of 500 volunteers currently helps gather vital information on the squirrels – but the charity aims to increase its numbers tenfold.
Volunteers will log squirrel sightings, monitor feeders for reds, set up camera traps to film their behaviour, and teach the public and schoolchildren about reds.
Data about sightings will help the work of Red Squirrels United, a UK-wide network set up to protect the reds, and Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project.
Red Squirrel United programme manager Dr. Cathleen Thomas said: “Without help, experts predict this beautiful and treasured creature could be extinct within as little as 35 years. Volunteers are playing a crucial role enabling red squirrels to thrive.”
The grey invasion
Volunteers will also report on grey squirrels moving into red areas. Since greys were introduced into England in 1876, red squirrel populations have dramatically declined. It is now thought there are less than 140,000 red squirrels left in the UK. “Problems arise because grey squirrels are competing with reds for food and places to live, pushing them into areas where they find it more difficult to survive,” said Dr Thomas. “Greys can also transmit disease to reds.”
Dr Mel Tonkin of Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, added that with “targeted control of grey squirrels” it was “possible to reverse the decline of our native reds and help them to return to former territories.”
Where are Britain’s red squirrel populations?
Isle of Wight, Brownsea Island, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside.
Anglesey, Clocaenog Forest, Tywi Forest.
Mourne Mountains and Glendun.
Widespread except in the central belt and far north of the country.