Red squirrels under threat from greys

Glens Red Squirrel Group has been inundated with grey squirrel sightings recently.  INLT 41-683-CON

Glens Red Squirrel Group has been inundated with grey squirrel sightings recently. INLT 41-683-CON

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A conservation group is urging local people to continue reporting sightings of grey squirrels in the Glens of Antrim.

In recent weeks, the Glens Red Squirrel Group has been inundated with grey squirrel sightings all across the Glens, and is offering to help landowners with the removal of these animals.

A spokesperson said: “Our local red squirrels are under threat from their invasive cousin the grey squirrel. The grey squirrel carries Squirrel Pox which is fatal to red squirrels; there has already been an outbreak of this virus in an isolated pocket of reds at St Killian’s College this year, which was caused by a small number of greys there.

“The increase in grey squirrel sightings may be down to the poor seed production of trees this year, such as the oak, beech, chestnut and sweet chestnut. This could be forcing greys out of small areas of broad leaf wood land into new areas on the hunt for new food sources.

“With greys on the move this will put additional pressure on our reds for their already shrinking food supply. Red squirrels have been observed eating green hazelnuts, a food source they would normally rely on later in the autumn season.

“It is vital local land owners keep an eye out for greys on their ground in any small planted woodlands or heavily planted areas. If the land owners are aware of grey squirrels on their ground the group would be willing to assist or advise on their removal.”

The group will be organising a walk in Glenarm Forest on October 25, with the aim of informing people of the work it does. The planned walk will take place at 1.30pm, meeting at the Forestry car park.

To book a place, call 0871 315 7376 or email info@glensredsquirrelgroup.com with your name, number attending and contact number.

Walks are not suited for prams or dogs to try and increase the chance of seeing squirrels.

The Glens Red Squirrel Group would like to ask everyone to keep reporting their sightings to the group through its web page www.glensredsquirrelgroup.com