Rural Scotland is still the endangered red squirrel’s stronghold, according to the UK’s largest wildlife survey.
Almost one in five of rural residents spot red squirrels in their garden on a monthly basis compared to a fraction of those based elsewhere in the UK.
For the first time, participants of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch were asked to note the other wildlife visitors to their gardens including frogs, red and grey squirrels, badgers and hedgehogs.
The survey revealed over half the participants saw frogs in their gardens but hedgehogs were seen in less than a third of gardens and their populations have fallen by 30% since 2000.
Daniel Hayhow, a scientist with RSPB, said: “This massive survey shows how important our gardens are for the amazing variety of wildlife living there.
“The State of Nature report showed we need more information across many species groups, so widening the Big Garden Birdwatch’s scope to include other animals made sense. In a few years we’ll be able to compare how the distribution of garden wildlife may have changed.
“Hopefully, the fact more people are helping give nature a home in their gardens and outside spaces will mean we see improvements rather than declines.”
According to the nationwide survey, grey squirrels are one of the commonest garden visitors with 72% of participants reporting seeing them in their garden at least once a month. The native red squirrel was the least seen with just 3% of people on a monthly basis – mainly in rural Scotland.
Badgers were spotted by 40% of rural residents and 40-50% of rural residents saw roe or muntjac deer in their garden compared to just 7% of urban dwellers.
Marina Pacheco, chief executive of the Mammal Society, said: “It’s fantastic to know gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly-declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. The RSPB is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens and outside spaces – whether by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.”
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