Na­ture Diary

Spot a squir­rel

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - OUTDOORS - SYLVIA THOMP­SON

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, squir­rels do not hi­ber­nate and can be seen on bright win­ter days as low sun­light il­lu­mi­nates them.

They do spend much of the au­tumn for­ag­ing for win­ter food and stay in their nest when days are wet and cold but can be seen scam­per­ing around or run­ning up tree trunks in city and coun­try parks on dry days through­out the win­ter.

The North Amer­i­can grey squir­rels – in­tro­duced into Ire­land in 1911 – re­main very un­pop­u­lar for dis­plac­ing the na­tive red squir­rels and dam­ag­ing trees as they eat tree bark and buds.

How­ever, there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest that grey squir­rel pop­u­la­tions have de­clined in the mid­lands coun­ties, pos­si­bly due to the in­creased pres­ence of Euro­pean pine martens. Red squir­rel pop­u­la­tions have thus re­cov­ered in coun­ties Laois, Of­faly and in north Tip­per­ary as pine martens and red squir­rels can co-ex­ist as na­tive species.

While Howth and Killiney re­main the

only parts of Dublin where red squir­rels can be seen, there are con­cerns that the grey squir­rels are en­croach­ing more and more into these ar­eas.

Red squir­rel pop­u­la­tions have started to re­cover in Laois, Of­faly and north Tip­per­ary

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