The 2019 Squirrel and Pine Marten survey needs your help! The invasive grey squirrel was introduced to Co. Longford in 1911, and over the following decades spread throughout most of the eastern half of Ireland.
It has had a major impact on the red squirrel by competing with it for resources such as food, and spreading a disease that is fatal to the native squirrel species. In areas where the grey squirrel is now common, the population of red squirrels has declined significantly or even disappeared entirely.
Researchers from NUI Galway have teamed up with colleagues in Ulster Wildlife and the Vincent Wildlife Trust to try to determine the up-to-date distribution of the two squirrel species.
The last survey, conducted in 2012, showed that the grey squirrel was not having everything its own way. In some parts of the country where they have been established for many years, they were quite rare, or sometimes absent altogether.
The grey squirrel’s disappearance is most notable in the midlands of the country. This was attributed to the recovery of another native species, the pine marten, which predates on the grey squirrel. In areas with very high densities of pine martens, grey squirrels struggle to survive. However, the red squirrel can co-exist alongside the pine marten, and as such, they are starting to return to these areas after the greys' disappear.
In our current survey we are particularly interested in the current status of red and grey squirrels in Co. Limerick. The 2012 survey indicated that grey squirrels had still not established themselves west of the River Shannon; however they have been spreading into the south of the country and may potentially invade the west via Co. Limerick.
We want to investigate if such an invasion has occurred, as it is highly important for the continued conservation of the red squirrel in the west of Ireland.
This is your chance to get involved and to contribute to the continued conservation of our native squirrel species. As we head towards the end of the year, we are making our final call to members of the public to record their sightings in 2019 of red squirrels, grey squirrels and pine martens through the survey link on the National Biodiversity Data Centre website, click here.
The form is quick and straightforward to fill out. There are short descriptions and pictures of the three species to help with identification. If you experience any issues while filling out the form or for more information, you can contact us through Facebook @squirrelsurvey.