Between 1903 and 1946 the Highland Squirrel Club reportedly killed no fewer than 103,000 red squirrels. The arboreal acrobat was treated as vermin, a threat to a fledgling forestry industry. Such is the shift in societal attitudes since, that the very same “vermin” now adorns magazine covers, heads up advertising campaigns and has spawned endless conservation appeals. Modern Britain loves red squirrels.
The wild forest that once stretched across much of the Scottish Highlands, would have allowed a red squirrel to travel from Lockerbie to Lochinver without ever touching the ground. Today that forest covers just 2% of its former range.
As red squirrels don't willingly cross open country, Scotland's fragmented wooded landscape effectively imprisons them on islands of trees surrounded by an ocean of inaccessible moorland.
Trees for Life, the Scottish rewilding charity dedicated to the restoration of a wild forest, has embarked on a pioneering project to translocate red squirrels to the North West Highlands, where despite improving habitat, squirrels have been absent for decades. By taking a few squirrels from areas like the Moray coast where they’re plentiful, Trees for Life is committed to establishing eight new populations in and around Torridon and Ullapool.