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21st Apr 2022

Save red squirrels by submitting your sighting to this Squirrel Survey

Fiona Frawley

a red squirrel in a tree, eating an acorn.

One for the wildlife lovers.

If you spend the majority of your walks exclaiming “Squirrel!” and stopping in your tracks to observe the little critters scaling trees and foraging on woodland floors, you could be able to help Biodiversity Ireland obtain some essential information.

The Urban Squirrel Survey is looking to gather information on squirrel populations in towns, cities, and urban parks. For their research, they’re focusing on the 7 most populated urban cities and downs in Ireland – Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Derry, Galway, and Waterford.

With the spread of urbanisation, parks and urban green spaces are becoming important habitats for many Irish species, including squirrels – the information found will be used to plan conservation actions to protect red squirrels in particular.

Over the past hundred years or so, Ireland’s native red squirrels have suffered as “the invasive grey squirrel” out-competes the smaller reds for food, and passes on a fatal squirrel-pox to them. Grey squirrels have largely developed immunity to the disease.

However, according to the Squirrel Survey, the fortune of the red squirrel in Ireland has changed following the return of the pine marten, a native predator which preys on the “larger, less vigilant grey squirrel”. It’s all kicking off in the squirrel community, it would seem.

Biodiversity Ireland say that researching the movements of red squirrels will teach us more about the importance of green spaces and ecological corridors in protecting the recovering native species. Also, recent studies have shown that urban parks may act as a refuge for grey squirrels from predation by the pine marten. Therefore, knowledge of grey squirrel populations in urban areas is essential for the repopulation of their red counterparts.

Where might you spot a squirrel?

Squirrels are diurnal (most active during the day), and inhabit treetops but can also be seen foraging on the forest floor. According to Biodiversity Ireland, red squirrels are “extremely elusive” and wary of humans, and will usually hide on the opposite side of tree trunks from humans or other potential predators.

Grey squirrels are much bolder and less frightened of humans, and can be seen on the ground feeding more commonly than red squirrels.

If you’d like to submit a squirrel sighting, you can do so HERE.

Header image via Instagram/urbansquirrelsurvey 

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