Written answers

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Department of Agriculture and Food

Wildlife Protection

10:00 pm

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 394: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to tackle the scourge of the grey squirrel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23666/07]

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Minister, Department of Agriculture and Food; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I am very much aware of the very serious problem presented by the spread of the grey squirrel, not only to the native red squirrel but also to our increasing stock of broadleaf forests. The red squirrel's loss of territory to the grey and the economic cost of grey squirrel damage to our broadleaf trees is a major and urgent issue for our countryside today. Accordingly, I have sought expert advice on the actions that can be taken to combat this problem. My Department is supporting a 3-year pilot project on this subject called the CRISIS project (Combined Research and Investigation of Squirrels in Irish Silviculture). The project is investigating methodologies for the control of grey squirrel as well as conservation of red squirrel.

In tandem with the pilot project, the CRISIS group recently published the findings of a survey of both red and grey squirrels in the State. This survey was funded by COFORD, the National Council for Forest Research and Development, an agency of my Department. The survey provides vital baseline information on the population and distribution of both species and has served to raise public awareness of the dangers posed to our woodlands and to our native red squirrel by the spread of the grey.

The CRISIS project is due to deliver its final report next March. I look forward to receiving specific advice on the most effective controls to be used against the grey for the protection of the red squirrel and of our broadleaf estate.

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