The Red squirrel is making comeback against their mortal enemy the grey squirrel. In this battle royale for survival, the red squirrel has had an unexpected helping hand. The return of the pine marten, who competes with the grey squirrel and not our red guy, has helped little red reclaim his natural habitat.
Red Squirrel Boffins On The Case
This is all according to a new survey led by NUI Galway. The new findings indicate that the return of the red squirrel is due to the decrease in the number of grey squirrels. The grey guys compete with red squirrels for food and carry a disease that is fatal to the native species. The re-emergence of the pine marten, which had previously almost disappeared in Ireland, is linked to the local demise of the greys.
High densities of pine martens were found in multiple areas – particularly the midlands – where grey squirrels had disappeared. Red squirrel numbers had recovered in many of these areas. This indicates that they are capable of sharing a habitat with the native carnivore, unlike grey squirrels. In urban areas, such as Dublin and Belfast, the grey squirrel continues to thrive.
Red Squirrel Says Shut Up Grey Squirrel
Grey squirrels were introduced to Ireland early in the twentieth century. Their population spread to cover the eastern half of the island. As a result, the red squirrel range had contracted over several years and the native species was struggling to survive.
The citizen science survey is a cross-border collaboration with the Ulster Wildlife and Vincent Wildlife Trust led by NUI Galway.
Dr Colin Lawton works at the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway. He said, “This study brought together colleagues from institutions all across the island, and this collaborative approach gives us a full picture of the status of these three mammals in Ireland. We are delighted with the response from the public, who were enthusiastic and showed a wealth of knowledge of Ireland’s wildlife. It is great news to see two native species recovering and doing well.’
Pine Marten Power
The report on the survey makes recommendations to ensure that the red squirrel and pine marten continue to thrive. Further monitoring is required to allow early intervention if conservation at a local or national level is required.
Dr Lawton added, “We encourage our citizen scientists to continue to log their sightings of Irish wildlife on the two national database platforms. Our collective knowledge is a powerful tool in conservation.”
Awww we are happy for you, little red guy. And we are happy for the pine marten too. Now, Mr pine marten, stay away from the farmer’s sheep, okay?
Check out these other endangered native Irish animals.
Nicole Buckler has been working as a journalist for over 20 years, writing from Sydney, Melbourne, Taipei, London, and Dublin.
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