Rare white squirrel spotted scavenging for nuts in garden

A rare white squirrel has been spotted in a garden in Perthshire.

Chris Eddington managed to capture images of the animal after he spotted it while having breakfast at his home in Dunkeld.

The sighting has been reported to Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, a partnership project led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, which monitors squirrel populations across Scotland.

Project staff have confirmed the animal is a native red squirrel with a condition called leucism.

White squirrel
White squirrel

Ann-Marie MacMaster, the project’s conservation officer for Tayside, said: “Leucism is a genetic condition which causes loss of hair pigmentation. It is similar to albinism but does not affect eye colour.

“Chris’s pictures are some of the best images we’ve seen of a leucistic red squirrel. Its distinct ear tufts and delicate body shape and size clearly distinguish this animal from its non-native cousin, the grey squirrel.

“I have noticed a definite increase in the number of squirrel sightings since the Government restrictions were put in place.

“Red squirrels are incredibly entertaining and charismatic creatures and those who find themselves with more time to observe them won’t be left disappointed.”

Project staff said Tayside is an important area for red squirrel conservation, with work in the region vital to prevent invasive grey squirrels from crossing the Highland line and reaching the areas where the UK’s core red squirrel population resides.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels said it has noted a rise in squirrel sightings since the start of the lockdown, as people have more time to watch and record the wildlife they see.

We've received lots of squirrel sightings recently!

Did you know that by joining our Community Hub, you can keep a personal sightings record? 📍https://t.co/6lTLdfkH4ppic.twitter.com/pAUJnHDqtw

— Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels (@ScotSquirrels) May 6, 2020

Mr Eddington, who has been staying at home with his family during the lockdown, said: “I’ve never seen so many red squirrels as I have while I’ve been staying home during the day.

“We have a squirrel feeder and bird feeders in the garden, but I’d only ever seen one squirrel visiting our garden at a time.

“Since spending more time at home, we’ve managed to see three all at once, and now I’ve seen the leucistic red squirrel too.”

The white squirrel has returned to the garden several times since the sighting was reported to the project on April 22.

Any sightings of both red and grey squirrels can be reported through the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels website, scottishsquirrels.org.uk.