Method of releasing and number of animals are determinants for the success of European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) reintroductions

Abstract

Reintroductions are considered an important part of the action plans and recovery strategies of endangered ground squirrel species, but so far little is known about their proper methodology. We collected primary data on 12 European ground squirrel reintroduction projects carried out at 14 localities in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland since 1989. We focused on seven methodological aspects of each reintroduction: selection of release site, method of releasing, date of releasing, origin of released animals, total number of released animals, mean number of released animals per season and reintroduction site management. The method of releasing was found to be the key factor in determining the settlement of animals at the target locality. Only soft releasing methods, i.e. the use of enclosures and/or artificial burrows, ensure that animals remain at the target locality. The other factors significantly determining reintroduction success are the number of released animals per season (at least 23 animals required) and the total number of released animals (a minimum of 60 individuals). Long-term management of the site and regular monitoring of the newly established population are necessary. Our recommendations, based on experience with the successes and failures of previous reintroductions, could largely improve the efficiency of future reintroductions of highly endangered species.

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Acknowledgments

We are much obliged to Vladimir Vohralik (Charles University, Prague) and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript and David Hardekopf (University of California, San Diego, CA, USA) for linguistic revisions. This study was supported by the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (grant no. SP/2d4/61/08) and Grant Agency of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic (grant no. KJB601410816).

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Correspondence to Jan Matějů.

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Communicated by A. Aguirre

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Matějů, J., Říčanová, Š., Poláková, S. et al. Method of releasing and number of animals are determinants for the success of European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) reintroductions. Eur J Wildl Res 58, 473–482 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-011-0597-8

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Keywords

  • Translocation
  • Endangered species
  • Rodentia