Since their introduction to Britain between 1876 and 1920 grey squirrels have spread rapidly. Grey squirrels cause a substantial amount of damage to their local environment by stripping bark from trees and eating the leading shoots of young trees. In farmed woodland this can lead to a 5% loss of trees and significant devaluing of the timber quality. In addition to this they have displaced the native red squirrel throughout much of England, Wales and Central Scotland.Many greys carry squirrelpox virus, which is fatal to Scotland’s native species. Once a common sight, red squirrel numbers are thought to have dwindled to just 120,000 of which 75% are found in Scotland.
As part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), the Roxburghe Estates has implemented a five year programme to protect and expand the population of red squirrels on the Estate.
This is done principally through targeted control of grey squirrels. This programme is part of a major conservation initiative throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders for which the protection of the iconic red squirrel is of paramount importance.