Nuts to feral pests
LOCALS URGED TO REPORT SQUIRREL SIGHTINGS
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.
Perth Zoo elephant Permai during a painting session with keeper Kirsty Carey.
A northern palm squirrel.