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Red Squirrels thriving at Tenstmuir
Friday, June 22, 2012
Fife’s much-loved red squirrels are thriving at Tentsmuir thanks to dedicated conservation measures by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scotland Natural Heritage (SNH) and Fife Coast and Countryside Trust (FCCT), through the Fife Red Squirrel Group.
Recent records strongly suggest that the area’s red squirrel population is increasing as a result of on-going management actions for the enhancement of red squirrels and control of grey squirrels taken by these groups.
“It's terrific to see red squirrel numbers seem to be increasing at Tentsmuir, while the greys are being spotted less often,” said Tom Cunningham, SNH’s Reserve Manager at Tentsmuir NNR.
“To conserve red squirrels in key areas like Tentsmuir, we must readdress the balance between red and grey squirrels. This is being tackled through a co-ordinated and targeted grey squirrel control programme.
“And, all evidence suggests that this is working at Tentsmuir. We're really pleased to see that these measures have started to have a positive effect on the red squirrels and hope they will continue to flourish throughout the forest, lochs and the reserve.”
Sophie Eastwood, FCCT Fife Red Squirrel Project Officer, said: “Fife is incredibly lucky to still have a widespread population of red squirrels. However, for this to continue we must address the issue of grey squirrels which were introduced into Fife in 1919.
“Not only does the grey squirrel compete for food it acts as a host for the squirrel poxvirus, while remaining unaffected by it, which is fatal amongst the native red variety.”
“It is really rewarding to learn that the combined efforts of SNH and FCS at Tentsmuir have started to make a noticeable difference for the reds and I would like to see this positive management for red squirrels in all of our key sites.”
“The success of the squirrel management programme at Tentsmuir is very promising for the future of red squirrels here in Fife.”
The populations of both red and grey squirrels have been continuously monitored throughout the Tentsmuir area by Elmwood College in partnership with FCS and SNH. This provides valuable data on the success of the management programme.
Stuart McDonald, Elmwood College Programme Manager, Conservation and Gamekeeping, commented: “The students get a real buzz out of monitoring the red squirrels in Tentsmuir.
“They get a chance to develop field skills and enhance their CV while supplying really useful data, which will prove very valuable in red squirrel conservation in Fife and beyond.
“We use a simplified variation of the national squirrel survey methodology approved by all concerned. Monitoring begins just after first light in ideally dry and still conditions with students walking very slowly along a predetermined route of roughly 2km with five minute stops every 100m, during which time all red squirrels seen within 16m are recorded on a map and all greys are noted.
“After each survey, I send all results to FCS, SNH, Sophie Eastwood, Fife Nature Records Centre and the national red squirrel survey officer, among others.”
To find out more about the red squirrels of Fife and how to volunteer, please visit the Fife Red Squirrel Group at www.fiferedsquirrels.co.uk.
Photograph by Joe Dobson