Once found across most mainland areas of the UK, they are now restricted to a smaller number of strongholds – namely places grey squirrels haven’t yet colonised.
In Scotland, it’s estimated there are only around 121,000 red squirrels left in the wild, more than 75 per cent of the total UK population. In the past, habitat loss and trapping to protect commercial forestry contributed to the red squirrel’s decline.
However the main threat now comes from the non-native grey squirrel. Greys are often more successful than reds when competing for food and habitat space because they are larger and more robust. They also transmit the deadly squirrelpox virus, an infection which kills red squirrels but does not harm greys.
In 2015, RSPB Scotland joined the Saving Scotland's Red Squirrel (SSRS) partnership. This partnership project, led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, is a national programme of work designed to protect red squirrel populations across Scotland and ensure their continued survival.