The Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group (FRSG) was formed in the spring of 2011, facilitated by Fermanagh District Council through its Local Biodiversity Action Plan. The Red Squirrel is one of the 15 species highlighted for action in the plan. A combination of strong interest from local people in the conservation of the species and the support of key stakeholders such as the Northern Ireland Forest Service (FS) and the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF) and the relative importance of Fermanagh for the species ensured that interest in the conservation of the species continued beyond the first couple of public information evenings.

Members are spread across the county from Cooneen in the east to Kesh in the north and around to Derrygonnelly in west Fermanagh. Their efforts will help inform red squirrel conservation in the county in a number ways. These include providing up-to-date sighting records which will give us essential baseline data to managing feeders to help supplement the diet of the red squirrels over the winter and spring months. Supplementary feeding will help keep the mammals in good condition over lean months which will in turn support more successful breeding rates to maintain the populations.

In addition to supplementary feeding, we will also support members who are willing to undertake targeted control of grey squirrels. Control of the grey squirrel populations is key to the conservation of the species, not only due to the fact that they out-compete the native red squirrel but also because they are carriers of the pox-virus which has decimated much of the population in England. The first confirmed outbreak of the virus on the island of Ireland occurred this March 2011 in Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down and was subsequently recorded in populations in the Glens of Antrim.

In autumn 2011 with the assistance of a grant from the Landfill Communities Fund, we were able to purchase some essential equipment for the group including feeders, feed and traps and importantly, tools and disinfectant to keep these clean and reduce the risk of disease and cross-contamination. The group are very conscious of the deadly threat that pox virus poses to our local populations and are determined that our activities will not aid the spread of the virus in any way.

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