Mixed news for red squirrels in Ireland

The All-Ireland Squirrel and Pine Marten Survey 2019 has been published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The findings are encouraging. For example, pine marten sightings have increased over the last seven years and their core range has expanded from the west and midlands to County Wicklow and Northern Ireland. At the same time, the range of the grey squirrel has decreased or disappeared in some areas with a commensurate increase in red squirrel sightings. However there was some evidence that the grey squirrel had moved into the southwest and they are still abundant around Belfast and Dublin. Moreover, recent research by Josh Twining and colleagues from Queen’s University, Belfast suggest that even if grey squirrels were forced out of all rural areas allowing red squirrels to return, pine martens do not inhabit urban areas where grey squirrels would continue to thrive. These urban refugia would allow grey squirrels to continuously push into rural areas and eventually they could develop strategies enabling them to evade the pine marten so again putting red squirrels at risk. (The Guardian; Journal of Applied Ecology)

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