Nuts to feral pests

LO­CALS URGED TO RE­PORT SQUIR­REL SIGHT­INGS

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Kaylee Martin

THEY might look cute and cud­dly but the squir­rels re­cently seen around the South Perth area have the po­ten­tial to cause ex­ten­sive dam­age to lo­cal agri­cul­ture and houses.

A feral squir­rel sight­ing was first re­ported late last month at Harold Ros­siter Park in Vic­to­ria Park. Re­ports have since been made of more sight­ings at Como Sec­ondary Col­lege.

Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food in­va­sive species man­ager Richard Watkins said WA had no na­tive squir­rels and the north­ern palm squir­rels spot­ted were feral pests.

He said the an­i­mals could cause dam­age to nat­u­ral plant species, as well as res­i­den­tial build­ings.

“Squir­rels are ro­dents and can dam­age elec­tri­cal wiring by gain­ing ac­cess to roof spa­ces and chew­ing through the wiring,” he said.

“Only a very small num­ber of squir­rels re­main in the South Perth area but an in­crease in num­bers could threaten mar­ket gar­dens, back­yard vines and fruit crops, and risk the dam­age of a wide range of veg­etable crops.”

Res­i­dents within a 30km ra­dius of Perth Zoo have been asked to re­main vig­i­lant and aware of the grey-brown, white-striped, furry-tailed an­i­mal.

Mr Watkins said he en­cour­aged res­i­dents to re­port sight­ings via the depart­ment’s MyPestGuide Reporter app, a mo­bile and on­line pest re­port­ing tool that en­abled users to take pho­tos and send a di­rect re­port.

“Squir­rels will avoid con­tact with pets and peo­ple by run­ning away. If cor­nered and grabbed, the squir­rel will at­tempt to bite, but in Aus­tralia there is no dis­ease risk to peo­ple,” he said.

“The north­ern palm squir­rel is re­garded as a state and na­tional ex­otic pest and once caught it will be trapped in a cage and taken off site for dis­posal.”

North­ern palm squir­rels orig­i­nally took up res­i­dence at Perth Zoo be­fore be­ing de­lib­er­ately re­leased in 1898.

While the squir­rel pop­u­la­tion stayed in the zoo grounds for years, over time the species spread through sur­round­ing sub­urbs through nat­u­ral dis­per­sal and ac­ci­den­tal move­ment via ve­hi­cles. The MyPestGuide Reporter app was de­vel­oped as part of the depart­ment’s Boost­ing Biose­cu­rity De­fences pro­ject made pos­si­ble by Roy­al­ties for Re­gions.

Squir­rels can also be re­ported to the depart­ment's Pest and Dis­ease In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice on freecall 1800 084 881.

Pic­ture: Marie Nirme www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d449010

Perth Zoo ele­phant Per­mai dur­ing a paint­ing ses­sion with keeper Kirsty Carey.

A north­ern palm squir­rel.

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