Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 22 May, 2003

Written Answers. - Wild Life Conservation.

  194. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government his plans to reverse the decline in populations of the red squirrel. [14137/03]

  Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): The red squirrel is a protected species under the Wildlife Acts. It is an offence to hunt or injure it or to wilfully interfere with or destroy its breeding or resting place, save under licence issued by my Department.

  The red squirrel is found over most of the country with the exception of the midlands and the north-west. Its preferred habitat is coniferous [789]woodland. Red squirrel surveys in the late 1970s and early 1980s established that the species was generally extending its range in response to afforestation. Some local populations have declined due to habitat management, disease and ecological factors favouring the grey squirrel. More recent planting of alder and birch will enhance habitat conditions for the red squirrel.

  On the basis of the information available to my Department and in the context of priorities for conservation action for species at risk such as the corncrake, I do not have any plans at present to introduce special measures for the red squirrel.