null European Ground Squirels repatriation organised also this year

NCA CR

European Ground Squirels repatriation organised also this year

3. 8. 2022

Total of 61 ground squirels from captivity has been released from the beginning of July and other 20 will follow soon.

Supporting not viable populations of European Ground Squirel has been organised since 2016. This approach is part of the Species Action Plan that the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic has been implemented together with selected zoological gardens and the Karlovy Vary Museum. [1]

Young squirels reared at the Brno Zoo and at the Vlašim animal rescue center found their new home at Syslí louky Natural Monument near Loděnice in the Czech Karst Protected Landscape Area. "We have observed a significant drop of ground squirel numbers at this site. There were just a few of them, although this used to be a larger colony. This was the reason why we released 20 animals in the previous year and recently we added 29 more squirels to support this local population," explains Tereza Brzobohatá, coordinator of the European Ground Squirel Action Plan at the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. Small herd of sheep helps to manage the low vegetation on the site as well, since low grass is important for ground squirels to easily overlook their territory and spot possible predator soon enough to disappear in their burrows.

European Ground Squirels were recently also released at the České středohoří Protected Landscape Area at Hliniště near Milá hill. This site is situated near other ground squirel colonies (Hrádek airport, hills Raná and Písečný). We suspect that the squirels could migrate among the colonies and thus support the "gene flow" that seems to be critical fo the long term survival and viability of the populations. The group of squirels released at Hliniště originates from foreign zoological gardens: 13 ground squirels come from Zoo Opel and Norimberk Zoo, and 19 were imported from Swedish Nordens Ark Zoo.

We also plan to release other 20 ground squirels from the Hluboká nad Vltavou Zoo at the Strakonice sport airport. After heavy rains during the 2021, it seems that not a single individual survived at this small airpot.

"We repatriated the ground squirels for the first time in 2016. That time we were successful in saving the population of ground squirels at the golf course in Karlovy Vary. There are more than hundred ground squirels today, and it seems it is a prosperous colony. Also population at the Hodkovice nad Mohelkou airport started to grow after the repatriation of some animals," says Jan Matějů, zoologist from the Karlovy Vary Museum. "Our efforts to support wild populations with animals reared at captivity seem to be successful. Not always is such a success guaranteed, though. There are several factors that effect the results such as heavy rains, cold weather or presence of predators. Domestic cats unfortunately are one of the negative factors. We hope that ground squirels released this year will survive at the new locations," closes Tereza Brzobohatá.

Photo: Tereza Brzobohatá, Irena Schneiderová

Notes:

[1] Action Plan for the European Ground Squirel (Spermophilus citellus) was approved in 2008. More information at https://www.zachranneprogramy.cz/en/european-ground-squirrel/.