Irish squirrels wanted - dead or alive

 

Members of the public are being asked to report sightings of squirrels 'dead or alive' on both sides of the river Shannon, as part of a survey focusing on the spread of grey squirrels to the west of Ireland.

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the fateful introduction of grey squirrels to Ireland when six pairs were released in the Castleforbes estate in Co Longford. They have since become the greatest enemies of native red squirrels.

According to the mammal ecology group at NUI Galway, which is conducting the study, the distribution of grey squirrels has expanded in all directions except westwards, where the Shannon appears to be an obstacle.

As the populations of this non-native species have increased, there has been a marked decline and disappearance of Ireland’s native red squirrels, as both species compete for the same foods - tree seeds, nuts and pine cones.

“Studies haves shown that red squirrels can disappear from an area within a decade or two after the arrival of the grey squirrels. The grey squirrel also carries the squirrel pox virus, which is lethal to the native reds,” the group has said.

Recently, two cases of the virus were detected in Co Wicklow. The All-Ireland Squirrel Survey in 2007 found red squirrels had become extinct in some areas and were absent from Meath and Westmeath and very rare in Louth, Carlow and Kilkenny.

Not alone are grey squirrels causing the disappearance of one of Ireland’s much-loved native species, but they are causing damage to trees through “bark stripping”.

Anyone may complete an online survey form at woodlandmammals.com, email margaret.flaherty@nuigalway.ie, or follow the project on Facebook or Twitter.

Source - The Irish Times