Vulnerable Beasts

Red squirrels really have no understanding of roads

At this time of year, squirrels always become extremely conspicuous. Two or three of the little blighters scuttle across the road every morning when I go up to the Chayne, and it’s always great to see them cartwheeling around the place with expressions of tremendous self importance. As they start stocking up for the winter, many end up beneath the wheels of cars. Young animals spreading out away from home are probably most vulnerable, and it’s not uncommon to find half a dozen different squirrels hit by cars in the autumn every year. Some roads are far worse than others, and I read last year in the local papers that a single mile long stretch of road through oak woodland produced twelve dead squirrels in October. It doesn’t help that that road is mostly straight, allowing drivers to get some real speed up, but it still seems like alot for an animal that is supposed to be endangered.

It would be nice to have a way of stopping squirrels being killed by cars, but nothing practical springs to mind. On the whole, people are not prepared to make any allowances for wildlife in any way, and the dead squirrels are just paying the price of being in the same patch of countryside as human beings.

The campaign to protect red squirrels in Galloway was a popular cause a few years ago, but because there are no tangible “goals” in conserving an animal that appears to be doing quite well locally, it’s hard to keep the general public’s enthusiasm. It’s easier to get people working for change than it is to excite interest in keeping things the same, so while the pox-bearing grey squirrel expands its territory every year, popular enthusiasm for red squirrel conservation has all but died away.

It sounds like a gloomy forecast, but I’m confident that in ten years, Dumfries and Galloway will have no red squirrels, and then it’ll be too late to do anything for them.

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