Scotland - and Britain - has a relatively small land area, but despite this is home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife.
Some have seen their populations plummet by over 90 per cent in recent years, meaning that once-common creatures are now a rare sight.
These are 10 of the most at risk, according to the experts at ecology & arboriculture consultancy Arbtech - and how we can help them return from the brink.
Hedgehogs are charming, yet they are facing a severe decline in numbers due to habitat loss, increased urbanisation, and vehicle collisions. While in the 1950s there were 36 million hedgehogs across the UK, in 2013 they went down to one million, resulting in a 97 per cent decrease in population. We can take several steps to preserve these beloved creatures, and creating hedgehog-friendly gardens is a key one. This includes providing access to fresh water sources and food, like cat or dog food, mealworms, or diced fruits. Moreover, ensuring safe passage for hedgehogs within neighbourhoods is vital. Installing tunnels or small openings in fences can help hedgehogs move around without getting stuck or injured.
2. Red Squirrel
Red squirrels face a daunting challenge from the invasive grey squirrel species, leading to their decline, which saw numbers fall to only 140,000 individuals across Britain in 2023. The best place to see these charismatic animals is in Scottish woodland. Protecting the habitat of red squirrels, especially coniferous woodlands, is essential to preserve the species. These habitats offer the ideal conditions for red squirrels to thrive. Conservation efforts should include preserving these woodland environments and monitoring the red squirrel populations to ensure their survival.
Reintroduced to Scotland in 2009 as part of a project run by Scottish Natural Heritage, in 2016 beavers were officially recognised as a species native to Scotland, yet they remain under threat. Beavers are vital to maintaining healthy wetland ecosystems, yet they are threatened by habitat loss and human persecution. Preserving these ecological engineers involves various strategies. Rewilding projects, which reintroduce beavers into suitable habitats, can help rebuild their populations. Tree guards and barriers can protect valuable crops while allowing beavers to coexist with human activities in areas where beavers interact with farmland. Public education is also crucial, as it fosters appreciation for these ecosystem engineers and promotes coexistence with these creatures, encouraging long-term preservation.
Bats are essential for ecosystem health but face habitat loss and disturbances. Preserving them requires a multi-faceted approach. Protecting bat roosts, whether in caves, buildings, or trees, is crucial. Minimising light pollution in urban areas helps bats navigate and hunt at night, ensuring their survival. In addition, installing bat boxes in cities and residential areas can provide suitable roosting sites, encouraging bats to remain in proximity to human populations. Scotland is home to nine species of bat - the rarest of which is the seldom seen whiskered bat.