Green Party Councillor, David Healy, has suggested that the introduction of Pine Martens to Howth would help to reduce the Grey Squirrel problems in the area. The Grey Squirrel populations on the peninsula are currently threatening the native Red Squirrel populations.
The Councillor has stated that the Red Squirrel populations are continuing to be at risk by the increasing population of Grey Squirrels in the Howth region of Dublin. Howth is an important region for the conservation of our native Red Squirrel species as it is currently one of the two main regions of the Dublin that contain the native Red Squirrel populations.
It is known that the Grey Squirrel species are now distributed across over 20 counties on the island, after their introduction in the early 1900s. The Grey Squirrel species are invasive and are continuing to out-compete the Red Squirrels for preferred habitats, food sources and are physically larger in size, which as a result has pushed our native species out of their natural habitats.
Now Councillor Healy has stated that he is becoming increasingly concerned for the welfare and future of the Red Squirrel populations in the Howth area of Co. Dublin. This concern comes from figures recorded in 2014 that showed an increased number of Grey Squirrels and figures recorded in 2015 that showed an even larger increase in abundance in the Howth region and a significant decline in the Red Squirrel populations within the same areas of Howth.
Councillor Healy has stated that a tender is currently being prepared for this year that will involve a detailed management plan for Red Squirrel and Grey Squirrel tracking such as trapping, surveying and tagging in order to record their abundance and distribution in the Howth area.
The Green Party Councillor has proposed that Pine Marten introduction to the Howth region of Dublin may help contribute to the reduction of Grey Squirrel population sizes. The Councillor has stated that it an option “worth investigating” as Pine Martens can prey on Grey Squirrels more easily than they can for Red Squirrels.
Although given the opportunity, Pine Martens will prey on both Red Squirrels and Grey Squirrels, the Grey Squirrels are less agile than the Red Squirrels and can not flee from Pine Martens as quickly as our native species can, making them an easier catch for the Pine Martens. Therefore, in areas where Pine Martens are present, the Grey Squirrel populations should become lower overall and Red Squirrel populations could reclaim their natural habitats over time.
Councillor Healy has stated that the Special Amenity Area Order‘s (SAAO) conservation and biodiveristy sub-committee will be meeting next week to discuss methods of action to allow the Red Squirrel population to thrive in the Howth region of Co. Dublin.