FUR and feathers are flying over a competition to find Scotland’s favourite native animal.
The golden eagle is currently gripping the top spot in the online vote organised by tourism and wildlife bosses.
So supporters of the red squirrel have mobilised to try to knock the much-loved bird of prey off its perch.
Groups such as Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels have been furiously lobbying their supporters to push their favourite mammal to the number one spot.
The golden eagle is currently well ahead in the poll organised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) with 38% of the votes cast so far.
The red squirrel is lagging behind in second place with 19%, just ahead of the otter at 16% and the red deer at 14%.
Harbour seals appear to be floundering on just 5% of the vote, which is part of the Year of Natural Scotland.
A message posted on Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Facebook page, urged: “Calling all red squirrel fans! You can vote here for your favourite of Scotland’s Big 5.
“The Tufted Acrobat lies in second place- shall we get it to number 1?”
Ken Neil, Tayside project officer for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, said he was keen for the “underdog” to come out on top.
He said: “We’re all very enthusiastic about red squirrels, they’re an iconic and much loved Scottish animal.
“I think everyone in Scotland likes the underdog and they”ve certainly been the underdog since grey squirrels arrived in 1876.
“We think it’s important they have a high profile because the work we are doing has global significance.”
He added: “I would love to see red squirrels being voted as our favourite.
“The delight when people see them for the first time is amazing.
“Please vote for our wonderful, beautiful acrobatic little animal.”
Bird protection charity RSPB Scotland said they would not engage in the same tactics to protect the golden eagle’s top place.
A spokesman said: “I think we will leave people to their own devices.
“We don’t want to pressure and force people to adopt something.
“It’s nice to see how things go of their own accord.”
Animal lovers have the option to nominate an animal outside of the “big five”. So far, ospreys, capercailies, wildcats, puffins and sea eagles have just 8% of the vote.
A spokesman for SNH said: “People are free to campaign for their particular favourite and encourage their contacts to vote for it.
“It’s still the choice of the individual whether they do so or not and it can apply to any of the species, and indeed any species not on the list.”