SCOTLAND’S red squirrel population has remained stable in the last year, according to the latest survey report.

The statistics, published by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, also indicate a continuing decline in grey squirrel territory in the north-east.

In the south of Scotland – Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders and parts of Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire – the number of survey sites reporting red squirrels remained between 51 and 52%.

However, the number of sites with grey squirrels fell from 60% to 51% in the 2019 survey, and the number of sites with only red squirrels increased from 29% to 34%.

READ MORE: Outdoors: Five of the best places to spot red squirrels

Project manager Dr Mel Tonkin said: “The small changes in favour of red squirrels in the south of Scotland are certainly promising.

“However, survey results can fluctuate from year to year and we will need to gather more data in future years to determine a definite trend.

“For now, we can say that red squirrel distributions in the region are stable.

“This is worth celebrating, and it is only possible thanks to ongoing work by volunteers, land managers, and many others.

The National: Grey squirrels carry squirrel pox, a disease harmless to them but fatal to their red cousinsGrey squirrels carry squirrel pox, a disease harmless to them but fatal to their red cousins

“However, we need to keep up the good work to hold on to our reds in the area and fend off the widespread grey squirrel threat.”

Grey squirrels, which were introduced to Britain from North America in the 19th century, can carry the squirrelpox virus. While it does not harm them, it is deadly to their red counterparts.

The surveys are conducted with feeder boxes strategically placed in woodland areas and monitored by volunteers.

When a squirrel visits one, a sticky tab collects some of its hair so the species can later be identified under a microscope.

READ MORE: WATCH: Earl of Home urges us to eat squirrels in House of Lords

Tonkin added: “The overall trend is also looking very positive in the north east and central lowlands.

“Although the 2019 results showed a small change in favour of grey squirrels when compared to the previous year, overall there has been a significant shift in favour of red squirrels since the surveys began, currently occupying 75% of survey sites.

“Focusing in on the Aberdeenshire results, grey squirrel populations have continued their retreat and are now largely limited to Aberdeen City.

“Here, city residents have been reporting red squirrels turning up in increasing numbers of parks and gardens.”

The full 2019 squirrel survey report can be viewed online.