Carnie Woods red squirrels need a new home

Red squirrel at Carnie Woods. Photograph by: John Stoddard Photography.
Red squirrel at Carnie Woods. Photograph by: John Stoddard Photography.

An animal lover who has been feeding red squirrels in a woodland for around 20 years is hoping to find them a new home after their numbers have grown.

John Cook goes to Carnie Woods, on the edge of Westhill, three times a day to feed the squirrels and says the numbers have now grown to 20 or 30 but the wood is too small to house them.

John, who owns Hollywood Cars in Westhill, doesn’t want to stop feeding the little tufty-eared rodents because he fears they would die and is hoping they can be moved to a bigger woodland area.

He said: “Myself and another fellow, who has now died, started feeding them about 20 years ago.

“We were told by Aberdeen City Council if we kept feeding the red squirrels it would boost the red numbers and get rid of the greys and then they would create tree corridors for them to move from one woodland area to another, but they haven’t.

“It’s probably the only place in Britain where you are guaranteed to see a red squirrel.

“I have seen 14 to 15 in one day. There is probably up to towards 20 to 30 red squirrels in Carnie Woods.

“I’ve been told to stop feeding them and they will go, but they could die, be eaten by a cat or get knocked down on the road.

“There are lots of places without squirrels that would be perfect for them.

“It costs me £300 a month in squirrel feed. I want to retire but I can’t afford to keep feeding the squirrels if I did.”

Only 120,000 red squirrels are left in Scotland - half the number of grey squirrels.

Some 75 per cent of the UK’s population of red squirrels are in Scotland.

The main threat to red squirrels is the spread of the invasive non-native grey squirrel which compete more successfully than red squirrels for food and habitat and are larger and more robust.

The squirrelpox virus is fatal to red squirrels but is carried by grey squirrels without causing them any harm.

Matt Nuttall, North-east Scotland project officer, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, said: “In certain circumstances supplementary feeding of red squirrels can help with their conservation but it’s also important to stress that over-feeding can have negative impacts, including creating a population that is beyond the natural capacity of the woodland.

“The simplest and most natural way to encourage the squirrels in Carnie Woods to disperse would be to stop providing supplementary food, which will cause them to move on and forage in the large areas of forest nearby.”