Meeting of Wednesday 15 May 2019
Speaker: Mr Michael Stinson, Ulster Wildlife Trust. Topic: Red Squirrels
Michael began by explaining that he was nearing the end of a three-year project, sponsored by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, into the Northern Ireland’s red squirrel population. Using camera traps four strongholds for red squirrels had been identified in the Province – The Northwest around Limavady, The Glens of Antrim, The Mourne Mountains and Fermanagh and West Tyrone. Grey squirrels were introduced to Ireland in 1911 when six pairs were presented to a newly married couple in Co Longford as a wedding present. Released into a walled garden they soon escaped, multiplied and are now common in the central and eastern counties of Ireland but less so in the west where forest habitats are replaced by bogland. The impact of the” greys” on the “reds” has been a dramatic decline in the native species due to the greys more aggressive foraging behaviour and the fact that they carry a disease – squirrel pox – to which the reds have no immunity. However in certain parts of Ulster the tide is turning. Pine Martens, hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries are now protected and making comeback. Surveys have shown that as the population of Pine Martens grows the population of grey squirrels declines. This in turn helps the reds which can co-exist with Pine Martens. Michael was thanked for an informative and engaging talk by Probian Hugh Ward.