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Hard work pays off at range as more reds sighted

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By Ben Murray
Farming
Hard work pays off at range as more reds sighted

RED squirrels sightings have surged at a Scottish defence training estate in Kirkcudbright over the past few months.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) revealed the increase in sightings on the Kirkcudbright Training Area.

It is thought that recorded sightings of the species have roughly doubled, which is anticipated to be the result of the dedicated conservation work done by DIO and its partners.

The sightings come just ahead of Red Squirrel Appreciation Day, and follow months of intense work by DIO and the Dumfries and Galloway Pine Marten Group.

Pine martens are natural predators of squirrels, however red squirrels are much more cautious of pine martens than their grey cousins, which has given reds a chance to thrive.

DIO’s deputy training safety officer for Kirkcudbright Training Centre WO2 Scott Maclean is delighted with the resurgence and said: “There has been a notable increase of red squirrel activity across the estate at Kirkcudbright, roughly double the number of sightings over the last few months in five or six separate locations.

“There have also been several sightings of pine martens by Kirkcudbright Training Centre staff and members of the public in the Balmae Lake area of the estate.

“The presence of pine martens is clearly having a beneficial impact on the red squirrel population at Kirkcudbright.”

In order to reduce the population of grey squirrels in Kirkcudbright, installation of den boxes was designed to help a small, permanent pine marten population to encourage a resurgence of the reds.

Oliver Howells, DIO’s principal ecologist, said: “The conservation of native species is an important part of the work we carry out across the UK and overseas defence estate.

“Our ecologists, as well as dedicated training safety officers, such as Scott, are working hard to deliver military training requirements while at the same time supporting the recovery of some of the most threatened and iconic species in the UK.

“Wildlife continues to thrive across our training areas, and there are many examples of how priority species are flourishing alongside military activities. The rise in red squirrel numbers at Kirkcudbright is a great example and a real success story.”

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