The red squirrel is believed to have been present in Ireland since the end of the last Ice Age. During the 1700s it is thought to have become extinct in Ireland. But this may not have been the case as there may may have been small isolated pockets in the same way this is today. Whether this was due to disease, hunting or loss of habitat is not known.
During the early 1800s, red squirrels were reintroduced to Ireland from Britain and by the early 1900s were present in all counties in Ireland, both north and south. The population continued to increase for a short time, then began to decline rapidly across the British Isles.
Around this time Grey squirrels were introduced into Ireland in 1911. Six pairs were released at Castle Forbes, County Longford in the Republic of Ireland. The animals thrived and quickly spread to the surrounding counties. By 1946 grey squirrels were present in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. The River Shannon in the west of Ireland and the River Bann in Northern Ireland have both slowed the grey squirrel’s spread but it has recently overcome both these natural barriers and is likely to continue its colonization of the entire island if control is not carried out.
Find out more about Squirrels on the Fact tab.