People are being encouraged to look out for squirrels – and record their sightings – in support of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project.
The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey takes place this week until Sunday, September 29.
During this week – which coincides with National Red Squirrel Week – the public is being encouraged to spend some time exploring the outdoors while keeping a lookout for both red and grey squirrels.
They are then being asked to report where and when they saw them on the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels website scottishsquirrels.org.uk.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a partnership project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust that is working to protect red squirrels where they are most under threat from the spread of non-native grey squirrels.
Squirrel sightings received from the public help the project understand how red and grey squirrel populations are changing over time and decide where to focus conservation efforts.
Prject manager Dr Mel Tonkin said: “We monitor squirrel populations throughout the year, and in 2018 we received an incredible 8400 squirrel sightings from members of the public.
“This year, thanks to support from National Lottery players, we’re trying something a bit different.
“By going out and looking for squirrels during the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey people can help us create a more detailed snapshot of the current situation on the ground.”
Autumn is an ideal time of year for squirrel-watching.
With leaves falling they can be easier to spot as they move through the treetops, foraging for the autumn harvest of seeds, nuts and berries.
They will also be spending more time on the ground, building up stores of food in preparation for the colder months ahead.
Mel added: “During the survey week you could visit a well-known squirrel stomping ground to help us keep our records up-to-date.
“Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could visit a woodland where few sightings have been recorded before.
“The more information we receive from the public, the better our understanding of Scotland’s squirrel populations will be.”
Gordon Buchanan, wildlife filmmaker and Scottish Wildlife Trust ambassador, said: “The red squirrel is an iconic Scottish species.
“Thanks to conservation efforts their populations are beginning to stabilise, but their future is still under threat.
“Taking part in the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey is a really simple way you can help.”
The results of the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey will be published later this year.
Each sighting is verified by a conservation officer before being added to the project’s sightings map and the official Scottish Squirrel Database.
More information can be found scottishsquirrels.org.uk/great-scottish-squirrel-survey.