Slow down: give our red squirrels a ‘brake’
The Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF) in partnership with the Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red Squirrel Group is appealing to motorists to “slow your speed, save our red squirrels,” with new warning signs now available for homeowners to display on their bins to highlight the danger of speeding traffic.
Red squirrels are one of Ireland’s most iconic, native mammals, but sadly they are under severe threat, as increasing numbers of invasive grey squirrels compete for habitat and food, and transmit a deadly disease. But many red squirrels are also killed by motorists, as they are now confined to small isolated patches of woodland.
Working within the local community, Northern Ireland’s local squirrel groups have identified several ‘accident black spots’ which still hold strong red squirrel populations and together with members of the NISF, including Ulster Wildlife, they devised this cost effective idea that exploits the weekly bin collection.
John Lees of the NI Squirrel Forum said; “I was sitting at traffic lights and I noticed the bins at the end of the drives and wondered if we could use the space to catch the driver’s eye. Permanent signs are not permitted, but wheelie bins are being set on road edges at least once a week. Too many of Northern Ireland’s red squirrels are victims of speeding cars. This loss stops the reds spreading out from our strongholds and starting new populations in neighbouring woodland. But if motorists slow down, they will have a fighting chance.”
Local residents can use the bin as a mobile sign board warning drivers that red squirrels are crossing the roads in the area. The group hopes they will make drivers slow down for squirrels, so that ‘tufty’ gets across the road safely.
Caoilfionn Murphy O’Hanlon of Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red Squirrel Group said: “Through our volunteer network, we have become aware of a number of roads in the county where reds are regularly falling victim to road kill as they move across the landscape between forests. We hope that these new signs will remind drivers to be mindful that the red squirrels and other wildlife need to travel across the countryside too and to adjust their speed accordingly when driving through forested areas.”
The bin stickers were produced with funding support from the NGO Challenge Fund and are available to homeowners who live in parts of Northern Ireland where red squirrels are present. To obtain a sticker, contact the Ring of Gullion and Cooley red squirrel group on 028 30 828 590 or email [email protected].
If you see either red and grey squirrels or pine martens in your area, please record your sightings online at www2.habitas.org.uk/records/squirrels.