Red squirrel rescue plan boosted with £2.5 million funding grant

© Supplied

Courier Country’s vital role in the protection of red squirrels is to be bolstered thanks to a £2.5 million funding grant.

The so-called Highland Protection Line stretches diagonally across Scotland from Montrose to Dumbarton, through Perth and Kinross, and is the front line in preserving red squirrels.

Scotland is home to under 120,000 red squirrels, three quarters of the UK population. The main threat to native squirrels comes from competition with invasive non-native grey squirrels and the spread of the deadly squirrelpox virus

The cash has been awarded to the Scottish Wildlife Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels – Developing Community Action project.

Over the next five years the project will enlist volunteers to carry out practical work to protect and strengthen red squirrel populations in their local area, and in turn safeguard squirrels across Scotland.

The project aims to provide training and support to hundreds of local people and land managers to take on a vital role in the long–term protection of the country’s red squirrels.

Dr Mel Tonkin, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project manager said: “Our work since 2009 shows that through targeted control of grey squirrels it is possible to reverse the decline of our native reds and help them to return to former territories.

“Red squirrels are one of Scotland’s most-loved species. Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to empower communities to help protect not just their local red squirrels, but major populations of the species in Scotland, and ensure that future generations can continue to see these special animals.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Many of us have a soft spot for red squirrels and sighting one in the flesh is an exciting, but sadly increasingly rare experience.

“Thanks to National Lottery players’ support, we’re helping organisations and communities protect and care for Scotland’s red squirrels, which represent three quarters of the UK’s dwindling population.

“We’ve been impressed with Scottish Wildlife Trust’s collaborative approach to help save this beautiful species and look forward to seeing the project progress in the coming months and years.”