Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Alert over red squirrel numbers

Red Squirrel (Pic: Jimmie Reid)
Red squirrels are put in danger by grey squirrels

Efforts to save the north east of Scotland's endangered red squirrel population are being stepped up by the University of Aberdeen.

New conservation officer Steven Willis will liaise with landowners over their control of the larger non-native grey squirrels, which can edge out reds.

Greys carry the squirrel pox virus, which is fatal to the native reds, as well as competing for food.

Mr Willis will also carry out a major population survey of both.

'Iconic mammal'

There are relatively strong red squirrel populations in Deeside, Donside and Speyside.

Mr Willis said: "We are very fortunate that we still have a strong red squirrel population.

"We are also lucky that there is a significant level of support for carrying out grey squirrel control in strategic locations where evidence suggests there is real benefit for the red squirrel.

"But we need to continue taking steps to ensure we safeguard the future of what is surely Scotland's most iconic mammal."

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