A RED squirrel has been spotted in Luss for the first time in several years.

Luss Estates Company, owner of the historic estate on the banks of Loch Lomond, announced that after many years without a single sighting, the animal was seen in the village last week.

Scotland’s much-loved, native red squirrels have been endangered for years with rapidly declining numbers due to the spread of invasive, non-native grey squirrels which were introduced from North America in the 1870s.

Over the last seven years, Luss Estates has been strategically controlling grey squirrel numbers thanks to a grant from Scottish National Heritage as part of a wider ongoing scheme in Scotland to protect the red squirrel population.

According to the latest figures available, the red squirrel population in the UK is believed to be around just 140,000 - most of which are in Scotland.

Due to its location and geography, Luss Estates is the gateway for grey squirrels to migrate to the west of Scotland. The estate’s participation in this government conservation scheme is therefore crucial to ensuring the control of grey squirrels across much of Scotland.

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Commenting on the sighting of the red squirrel in her garden, Luss resident Fiona MacEachern said: “I had not seen one in such a long time, so I was extremely excited when I spotted the red squirrel cheekily tucking into our bird feeder!

“We’ve named him Bumpy Mackenzie after the children’s book character and have left more feed out to encourage him to come back again.”

Simon Miller, CEO of Luss Estates, added: “We are very pleased to hear of Bumpy’s visit to the MacEacherns’ garden.

“We have been keen participants in this co-ordinated action to promote red squirrels in this part of Scotland and are delighted to see it working.

“This scheme is a key part of our conservation agenda here on the estate, which includes measures to protect and enhance the Loch Lomond islands.

“As with the red squirrel’s conservation scheme, we believe the islands should be nationally recognised nature reserves given that they are amongst the most protected and important sites in Scotland, prized for their rare, native fauna and flora.”

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project is a co-ordinated attempt between Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish National Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust.

The initiative started in 2009 and has been widely hailed as a conservation success as numbers of red squirrels in Scotland appear to be stabilising, following years and years of decline in their population.

Reds also face threats from natural predators including owls, foxes and stoats.