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The translocation and post release settlement of red squirrels Sciurus vulgaris to a previously uninhabited woodland

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Red squirrels have undergone a 30% contraction of their range in the last 10 years in Ireland, a decline attributed to the introduced grey squirrel. Large regions in the west of Ireland are free of both species of squirrel, due to the isolation of forests there and their relatively recent planting. The potential of these forests as translocation sites for red squirrels was investigated to ascertain the possibility of increasing the range of red squirrels in Ireland. Nineteen red squirrels were moved into Derryclare wood, Co. Galway using a soft release into enclosures, and their subsequent survival and settlement in the wood was monitored, using trapping and radio-tracking. The successful release of 94.7% of squirrels from the enclosure, and 68.4% survival to the start of the following year’s breeding season were in excess of the target survival rates of 75 and 50%, respectively. Five of the females were found to be lactating in May 2006, and seven offspring captured in August 2006. A squirrel was observed in a follow-up visit in October 2007. Radio-tracked red squirrels tended to remain in the general vicinity of release, incorporating supplementary feeders as part of their home ranges. Squirrels also fed on the natural food available in the wood, with feeding signs readily observed in the wider woodland. The techniques used proved very successful in survival, retention and future reproduction of the translocated population. Timing of release may be an important consideration for future translocations with survival better in summer-released animals.

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We would like to thank J. Gilleran, M. Morrissey, E. MacLoughlin and C. McCaw for their help with the fieldwork, and Professor W. Arthur for the support of the Zoology Department, NUIG. Thanks also to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte Teoranta, a State owned forestry company in Ireland, for permission to conduct this study on their respective property. This project was financed by the Embark Initiative of the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology.

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Correspondence to Colin Lawton.

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Poole, A., Lawton, C. The translocation and post release settlement of red squirrels Sciurus vulgaris to a previously uninhabited woodland. Biodivers Conserv 18, 3205–3218 (2009).

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