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The native Irish Red Squirrel endangered species

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Sceala Irish Craic Forum Discussion:     The native Irish Red Squirrel endangered species

The red and the grey squirrel are the two common squirrel species in Ireland and both are found mainly in woodland and Ireland's forests.
News Update concerns for the native Irish Red Squirrel.
Wildlife experts are concerned at the spread of squirrel pox virus (SQPV) after a third case of the deadly disease has been confirmed in a little over a month.
A native red squirrel was discovered suffering from SQPV in south Dublin earlier this week.
This follows earlier cases in red squirrels in Hollywood and Kilmacanogue in Co Wicklow.
The Hollywood case was the first ever confirmed record of the virus in the Republic of Ireland.
SQPV was confirmed in Northern Ireland last year.
The virus is carried by non-native grey squirrels, who do not appear to suffer from it.
Animals with SQPV rapidly develop myxamatosis-type symptoms and die within a matter of days.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is asking people to send any records of diseased or dead red squirrels, together with details of location and a photograph, to natureconservation(at)environ.ie
red squirrel,
grey squirrel,
squirrel pox
The red and the grey squirrel are the two common squirrel species in Ireland and both are found mainly in woodland and Ireland's forests. They are members of the 'Rodentia' family. The red squirrel is native to Ireland but can be difficult to observe as it spends a large proportion of time high up in coniferous trees. It is found in most parts of the country except the midlands and the North West. The red squirrel's preferred habitats are large coniferous woodlands with their favourite trees being Scots Pine and Larch. There has been a significant decrease in the numbers of red squirrels and they are thought to have become extinct on at least two occasions in Ireland. The current decline is attributed to factors such as pressure on its habitat from grey squirrels and due also to large scale forest clearance.

The Irish Red squirrel is now an endangered species under threat
A new report says Ireland's native red squirrel could be wiped out by a virus carried by the grey squirrel.
The report of the Irish Squirrel Survey 2007, also calls for the protection of the red squirrel and for the control of grey squirrel populations.
Over the past decade the grey squirrel has spread to 26 counties throughout Ireland. It is now found west of the Shannon, in Leitrim and Roscommon, where it had not previously been found.
The red squirrel is already extinct in Meath, Westmeath, Carlow and Kilkenny.
The report warns that if the grey squirrel is left unchecked the hardwood industry and the conservation of native woodlands could suffer. There are also concerns about a virus that could wipe out the red squirrel. The report says action is needed to conserve red squirrel numbers, and that grey squirrel controls need to be carried out.
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Red Squirrel
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Red Squirrels
The red squirrel is the smaller of the two squirrel species found in Ireland. It measures approximately 40cm, this includes the tail which measures around 18cm, almost as long as the body. It is thought that this helps the squirrel to balance and steer when jumping from tree to tree and running along branches and keep the animal warm during sleep.. The red squirrel weighs around 300 grams but this can vary depending on the time of year and whether the squirrel is male or female.

Their fur colour appears brown but this can change from summer to winter. The most common variety is red in the summer and has prominent ear tufts but in winter its fur can range from a grey/black to ginger. The red squirrel also loses its ear tufts at this time and could easily be mistaken for a grey squirrel. Although only red coats are found in Ireland and parts of Britain, in other parts of Europe and Asia the different coat colours co-exist within populations, much like hair colour in humans. The underside of the squirrel is always white-cream in colour. Red Squirrels shed their coats twice a year, switching from a thinner summer coat to a thicker, darker winter coat with noticeably larger ear-tufts (a prominent distinguishing feature of this species) in August-November. A lighter, redder overall coat colour, along with the larger ear-tufts helps to distinguish the European Red Squirrel from either of the Eastern Grey Squirrel or the American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).
The Red Squirrel, like most tree squirrels, has sharp, curved claws to enable the climbing of trees, even when branches are overhanging.
Their lifespan is about 2-3 years.

The Grey Squirrel
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The grey squirrel is the other squirrel type found in Ireland. It is native to America and was introduced into Ireland approximately 65 years ago. The grey squirrel is mainly found in the north and the east of the country and it is replacing red squirrels where they are declining. The grey squirrel is thought to be more aggressive than its red counterpart and is now more commonly seen in many of our parks and woodlands.

Both red and grey squirrels are active by day and sleep by night in their nest called a 'drey'. They are most active in the summer months especially in the hours following sunrise and again before sunset. The squirrel is not a nocturnal animal and will rarely leave the drey after dark. Squirrels do not hibernate but they are not particularly active during the winter and tend to spend a great deal of time in their drey or in the vicinity of their drey. If the weather is severely cold or stormy a squirrel might not leave the drey for a few days at a time.
Red squirrels eat almost everything. This includes bark, tree buds, fruit, nuts and fungi. The grey squirrel, however, eats a wider variety of food than red squirrels and therefore they are more adaptable to varying conditions. They compete directly with the red squirrel for food which can result in food shortages for the latter and ultimately driving them out of an area. Squirrels are known to hoard food in times of plenty.
Female squirrels can have up to two litters per year with an average of three of four per litter. The young leave the drey when they are about 7 or 8 weeks old. Red and Grey squirrels do not interbreed.

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