Project to boost red squirrel numbers in Larne

The group is hoping to boost red squirrel numbers in the area.
The group is hoping to boost red squirrel numbers in the area.

A local community group is seeking help in boosting the fortunes of our native red squirrel.

Ballygally Biodiversity Group plans to return the red squirrel to Carnfunnock Country Park and Chaine’s Wood.


They are asking for public feedback on sightings of the under-threat species, whose numbers have decreased sharply in recent years.


BBG was formed in late 2015 and is currently working towards the removal of the invasive grey squirrel from Carnfunnock, with the aim of helping the red squirrel population flourish once more.


In 1911, a number of American grey squirrels were released in Co Longford, and they have since “colonised” the east coast of Ireland, said BBG secretary Joe Dowdall.


The larger greys out-compete their red cousins for food and habitat, meaning higher birth rates for the invasive species. Greys can also spread the squirrel pox virus, which does not affect them, but is be fatal for red squirrels.


“It’s about 15 years since the last red squirrel was seen in Carnfunnock, but within a five mile radius of Ballygally there are still pockets of red squirrels,” Mr Dowdall said. “In just over two and a half years we’ve removed a substantial number of grey squirrels from the park, but we need more help from the public to complete this project.


“Where there are sightings of reds we can help with providing feeders and so on to support the red squirrel population in that area. If people see greys we would ask them to report this too.
“Greys are an absolute menace and they do lots of damage to the habitat around them, including to nesting birds and trees.”


Anyone who would like to find out more about the project is invited to a meeting on July 30th (7:30pm) at the Information Centre in Carnfunnock Country Park.


There will also be a Native Species Day at Carnfunnock on August 5 (11am-4pm).


Queries can be directed to Ballygally Biodiversity Group on 0780 309 6729 or by emailing bbgsecretary@yahoo.com