Gatehouse red Squirrels has launched a campaign to raise funds to allow the group to continue its work in protecting the red squirrel population in the Gatehouse Area.
Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels (SSRS), is entering its last year of a lottery-funded project and have been an important source of support to the local group. While about half the group’s operating costs are raised locally through public donations at Cream o'Galloway and at shows and galas they attend, more will be needed to replace SSRS support when the project stops.
The group has been fortunate to receive a number of generous donations for specific purposes, allowing them to buy a thermal imager and ten trailcams. The hide now in mid-construction in Cally Woods is also being funded in this way. And last year they received a substantial donation of equipment from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership (another imager, 4 trailcams, a laptop and projector, and a share in a liveried gazebo).
But the work needs to continue as the last two years have seen the grey squirrel establishing itself more firmly in the area, bringing with it the dreaded squirrelpox virus that is so lethal to reds. As Peter Garson, who chairs the local group says, “If we are to hold on to our reds, we need to up our game. This translates into regular surveillance activities right across the woodlands in our area, we need more people to become involved in our fieldwork, as well as finding additional funds to support the work. And if we are to run an efficient surveillance system, still more trailcams will be needed, thus adding to our immediate costs.
Peter estimates that the group will need about £2500 per annum to run sustainably. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as perhaps in as little as three years time it may prove possible to deliver a contraceptive to greys through bait to which only they will have access. And we may already be getting help from the pine martens now living in our area - it has been repeatedly shown elsewhere that they severely depress grey squirrel populations whilst allowing red squirrels to prosper.