Countrymans Diary

Diamond of the Glen

Now Ladies and Gents I maybe old and grey, but the senses are finely tuned.

Whilst scouting across Facebook I noticed a new book being launched by a young lady from the bonnie land of Scotland.

With a Huge passion for the out doors and generous heart as well please welcome the Diamond from the Glen, Portia Simpson.Her Page is here: Staff.

For the last six years I have worked in Aberdeenshire on the ‘Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel’ project, which is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Following a serious knee operation I decided to give up gamekeeping and deer stalking and opt for an easier job. Trapping grey squirrels on the gentle rolling hills seemed like a more sensible option and had turned out to be a great career move! Not only do I get to spend my days in the outdoors in beautiful countryside, but I get to save an iconic Scottish animal, the red squirrel.

Since 1952, ninety five percent of red squirrels in England and Wales have been wiped out and today seventy five percent of the UK’s remaining population are found in Scotland. Grey squirrels still threaten the existence of the native reds because they compete for food and territory and they transmit the deadly squirrel pox virus. Although grey squirrels carry the virus it doesn’t affect them. When they transmit the virus to the reds however the poor reds quickly go downhill and a swift death follows.
The fight to save the red squirrels from extinction started with the launch of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project.

The aim of the Aberdeenshire project is to prevent the spread of greys west into the highlands which is presently a red squirrel stronghold. At the moment the deadly squirrel pox virus has not reached the Aberdeenshire squirrel population and we aim to keep it that way. By creating a gap to the south of Aberdeen it prevents our resident squirrels from meeting up with the south Scotland population ( Which do have the squirrel pox virus)

To catch the greys I use live catch mink traps, sited on a wooden board and wrapped in heavy duty black polythene.
(Pond liner type material) The traps are then nailed up trees and are extremely effective. In the beginning we used to place them on the ground at the base of the trees, but due to interference from badgers and dogs we abandoned this method and placed them in the trees instead.

In central Aberdeen one of my colleagues uses rectangular shaped El gecko traps, placed inside wooden boxes and sited high up in the trees. This is to prevent interference from members of the public who don’t always support our cause. The trap boxes look very much like owl boxes and are usually left well alone. Once in place our traps are checked twice daily and any non target species such as red squirrels and birds are quickly released.

Over the last six years the project has been a huge success and we have pushed the majority of the grey population back to the city boundary. A few stray greys are still present in the shire but my aim this year is to locate and round up any last stragglers. The reds have returned in force and have bounced back far faster than I thought possible in such a short space of time. They are even present in some of the parks and gardens within the city which should please the local residents and silence the doubters once and for all.

Photo one shows a red squirrel.

Photo two a grey.

And photo three a red with the deadly pox virus.


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