PROJEKT: Conservation of European Ground Squirrel

It is not any news that the largest population of ground squirrels in Slovakia lives at the Bratislava airport. Well, these squirrels naturally also run into the open countryside from there, and the mowed grass meadows between the technical buildings provide them good living space. Several such ground squirrel meadows are already near Decathlon, Sconto and technical buildings located around Bratislava airport. And on one such a meadow, on which an estimated population of 700-900 ground squirrels live, construction works are going to be carried out this winter.

At that time, all the ground squirrels are hibernating, and if heavy machinery were to drive in and start digging, you can probably imagine how it all would finnish.

However, the developer had to have the building assessed through the EIA, and as part of it, an assessment on the occurrence of protected animals – namely ground squirrels – was drawn up. This was followed by a lets say not only smooth communication with him, but at the end of it there was an agreement and an obligation to carry out and partially pay for the captures and translocations of this protected species individulas.

Well, we are also partly financing translocations as part of the ground squirrel protection project LIFE Sysel from which we move the captured individuals to 9 locations in western Slovakia, where small squirrel colonies live. These need to be replenished, or ground squirrel no longer live at all, and we establish new populations. It is logistically quite demanding operation, since we cannot keep captured squirrels in transportation containers for a long time and they have to move to new localities as quickly as possible. But the action is supervised by a really large team, which is commanded by the biggest ground squirrel expert in Slovakia and our colleague – Ervín Hapl.

He cooperates with project partners from the organizations Alka Wildlife, ZOO BOJNICE, Faculty of Natural Sciences, UK.

Catchers prepare apples, set traps, feed ground squirrels with sunflower seeds, observe the traps with binoculars, carry away ground squirrels, prepare new areas and transport them there.

So far, we have managed to capture about 300 ground squirrels and all of them are determined to persevere until the last one. So hopefully he will jump into the trap voluntarily, when he understands that it is for his own good and won’t keep them waiting for long.

Thank you to everyone who participates in the activity, it really takes determination and passion to do it there in this 30 degree heat with no natural shade.

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