Recolonising red squirrels on Paxton estate

Nature-lovong Borders residents are particularly fond of the red squirrel.
Nature-lovong Borders residents are particularly fond of the red squirrel.

RED squirrels on Paxton estate were killed off by the deadly squirrelpox virus in only a few short weeks but the hope is that they will only be missing from the estate temporarily.

Now Paxton House is one of the estates on both sides of the River Tweed working closely with wildlife trusts on the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project to secure the future of the red squirrel.

The project is a partnership effort between Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST), led by Karen Ramoo.

“Grey squirrels carry the disease which causes infected creatures to starve to death and its rapid spread has been a big blow to everyone at Paxton,” said Karen Ramoo of Red Squirrels in South Scotland. “ But I hope visitors will not become despondent about the predicament; the public can do their bit to help matters.”

The director of Paxton House, Claire McDade, said: “We, as well as our visitors, are passionate about our red squirrels and are heartbroken that we have lost them, but we are doing all we can, in partnership with Karen and her colleagues, as well as with our neighbours, to aim for their recovery over the long term.

“There is no easy quick fix solution. We have to work together and keep up the pressure on this issue.

“If we all pull together we hope to see positive results over the next few years”

Today, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 grey squirrels in Scotland and only around 121,000 red squirrels and the project hopes to rebalance those numbers.

It aims to encourage a co-ordinated approach to control by working in tandem with similar work being done by the Red Squirrels Northern England project and the cross-border volunteer group SOS Berwick to form an impressive grey squirrel control network.

The idea is that continued and sustained grey squirrel control will give red squirrel populations the chance to recolonise their former haunts such as the Paxton estate, where they were once such a familiar sight on the landscape.

It is paramount that a co-ordinated and concerted effort is taken by all landowners across the border lands, controlling and monitoring grey squirrels on estate grounds. To help raise the profile of this work Paxton House, with SSRS and RSNE, is hosting the second annual Red Squirrel Cross-Border Conference on Wednesday, November 7.