Save NTS Rangers update…
As reported in the Voice last month, 75% of NTS ranger posts are currently at risk of redundancy. There was some good news in the middle of last month that the Trust have been successful in their Save Our Scotland fundraising campaign. Let’s hope that this allows them to completely rethink their redundancy proposals. The consultation period on the proposed redundancies came to a close at the end of July, and while we wait to hear about the outcome, here is a post from the Save NTS Rangers Facebook page, which tells us about some of the work Rangers do across Scotland.
Protecting our mammals
Some of Scotland’s most iconic, charismatic and best-loved wildlife species are mammals that thrive on National Trust for Scotland (NTS) properties. From mountain tops to the sea, through a range of diverse habitats managed by NTS rangers and ecologists, wildlife finds a safe haven to live and to raise their young. The National Trust for Scotland owns and protects 76,000 hectares of countryside including 16 Special Areas of Conservation (SAC; for habitats, plants and animals) of which 2 are Marine SACs. In addition many mammals on NTS properties are European Protected Species or have other legal protection.
Managing native woodland expansion on our upland properties, including Mar Lodge, Goatfell and Glencoe, is improving and increasing habitat for red squirrel and pine marten. Returning areas of conifer plantation to mixed native woodland is also helping other wildlife on many NTS estates.
Management of species rich grassland and wildflower meadows provides homes for mice, shrews and voles which in turn provide a food source for carnivores such as stoats, weasels and Scottish wildcats. Our river systems are the home of water voles and otters and our Perthshire properties are even supporting the reintroduced European beaver.
Monitoring species is an important management tool in conservation allowing us to see how our wildlife is coping with the many pressures and threats. Rangers and ecologists gather the data needed to inform management decisions that benefit biodiversity. For example, squirrel monitoring is undertaken on many estates including Crathes, Dollar Glen and the Perthshire properties to discover if grey squirrels are present. The non-native grey can carry the squirrel pox disease that is fatal to the red squirrel, so has to be humanely controlled. Another non-native mammal which is monitored is the American mink. These predators are controlled in order to protect important populations of water vole at Mar Lodge, Glencoe, Torridon, Threave and Ben Lawers.
Nine species of bat live on NTS properties roosting in our historic buildings, bridges and veteran trees and foraging for insects in the surrounding countryside. Many rangers are licenced bat workers and have extensive knowledge of where the bats are roosting and hibernating. They work with colleagues and contractors to ensure that these legally protected species and their roosts are not damaged when work is carried out on trees and built structures.
Badger setts, squirrel dreys and pine marten dens are also recorded for national surveys, and so they can be protected during forestry and farming activities. Pine marten boxes are erected in woodlands where there are no suitable den sites. The rangers at St Abbs help protect the breeding grey seal population as part of a special Seal Haul Out Site, working with visitors to reduce disturbance which can cause mothers to abandon their pups. Managing access is also important for visitor safety.
Mammals are often difficult to see as many are secretive and nocturnal. The Ranger Service offers many opportunities for school children and visitors to experience these hidden and exciting species. Connecting people with nature through evening walks to see bats, badgers, beavers and otters; looking for tracks and signs during a daytime walk or a school visit; helping children to set trail cameras in a woodland and then posting the videos online helps to engage and educate a wider audience.