A golf club in north Cork has been thinking outside the box to try and help the red squirrel thrive — and has a video to show how popular the initiative has been with the under-threat animals.
Fermoy Golf Club manager Denis Twomey said the club decided to try to help the estimated 12 or 13 animals that live on the club’s lands.
“We contacted the local Men’s Shed organisation, where Pat Mahon took up the challenge. He researched the type of feeder that would be appropriate for feeding squirrels and then set about designing and making them.”
Eight boxes have been placed throughout the course. They have a hinged lid that the squirrels can get under to access the food.
The boxes are regularly refilled by course workers Tomás O’Flynn, Pat Finn and Pat Tobin.
“The feeders on the second nine holes are proving very popular,” said Tomás O’Flynn.
The club also asked one of its members, John Mulvihill, who runs a CCTV company and has installed other cameras on the course for more conventional security reasons, to install a camera that would record the activities at one of the boxes.
The resulting video shows the squirrel coming to the box to feed, and even seeing off a magpie who was no doubt hoping for some crumbs, or nuts, off the feed table.
The 650-member club, which borders the Coillte woodland on Corrin Hill outside Fermoy, has also installed bird tables to help see the birds through the winter.
The red squirrel is a protected species under the Wildlife Acts of 1976 and 2000, and also under the Bern Convention. They number around 40,000 nationally but have been in decline as the larger grey squirrel, which was introduced into Castleforbes, Co Longford, in 1911, expands into their territory.
Grey squirrels are present across the island, the exceptions being Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry and Cork, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
However, there may be some good news for the native red squirrel. A study published last year in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, which was led by Emma Sheehy of NUI Galway, found that where pine marten numbers were high, such as in the Midlands, the grey squirrel was either absent or rare, even in sites where they had previously been very well established.
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