Ayrshire is home to over 45 species of terrestrial mammal, ranging from the Red Deer Cervus elaphus to the Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus. There are those that we may see everyday, such as the Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, whilst others such as Badger Meles meles and Fox Vulpes vulpes are similarly widespread but more difficult to see. Mustelids are also present in Ayrshire, with Eglinton Country park reporting sightings of Weasel Mustela nivalis, Stoat Mustela erminea and Feral Ferret, as well as the occasional sighting of Mink Neovison vison and Otter Lutra lutra.
The region is home to some nationally important species. This includes the Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, which can be found in the Carrick Area of South Ayrshire.With fur ranging from blonde through red to dark brown, this is the only squirrel native to Britain. The Red Squirrel’s favoured habitat is the conifer forest, along with broad-leaved woodland, where they build dreys (nests) from twigs, in tree forks close to the stem on a conifer. In the last 60 years, its UK population has declined and its range contracted, which has been concurrent with the introduction of the Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. The larger Greys not only compete for resources but also carry a harmful virus to which the Reds are particularly susceptible. The number of recent records of the Greys in Ayrshire has grown rapidly and details of sightings should be reported immediately to the Red Squirrels in South Scotland project officer.
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