Northern Irish council signs off red squirrel death warrant

Councillors at Ards North Down Borough Council are to let grey squirrels breed, even though that will lead to the extinction of local red squirrels. They turned down a cull and, instead, are looking at ‘alternatives to enhancing numbers of red squirrels,’ reports Belfast Live.

Squeamish councillor Nick Mathison tells the newspaper: “We are being asked to make a significant decision in that we approve of, the phrase used is ‘a dispatch’. But we are being asked to approve of the killing of squirrels – and that’s not a decision to be taken lightly.”

Invasive: the grey squirrel

Mathison is a member of the council’s Community & Wellbeing Committee, which recently considered a report commissioned by the council to look into promoting red squirrels and pine martens in the borough, through controlling grey numbers. The report recommended controlling the ‘non-native invasive species of grey squirrels’.

It continues: ‘The most effective control is the provision of feeders on a secure area of council property, for example in secure closed yards, for a period of two weeks followed by closure of the feeders for several days while trapping and dispatching is undertaken.

‘Officers will work with the Ulster Wildlife Trust and other key stakeholders to develop a balanced and appropriate programme for the control of the invasive grey squirrel on council property.’

Councillors chose to ignore the recommendations.

Ulster Wildlife Trust, which works with local red squirrel groups across the province to wipe out greys, warns that the red squirrel is heading for extinction. The glimmer of good news is that UWT 2019 survey data demonstrates it is likely that red squirrels are now more widely distributed across Northern Ireland than greys.

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