In recent days, our volunteers have been going to the Bratislava airport to feed the ground squirrels. Every roughly 20-30 meters they throw a little sunflower to get them used to going to these places. We are planning to catch ground squirrels there and transport them to other locations in order to strengthen several populations in southern and western Slovakia.
Bratislava Airport is home of the strongest Slovak population of ground squirrels, with 10,000 individuals. This is one third of the total number of 28,000 squirrels that we currently have in Slovakia. A total of 8,000 ground squirrels live in two other locations on the Muránska Planina and in the Slovak Kras. Two-thirds of individuals live in three places in Slovakia, which says a lot about the small numbers of other populations in the remaining 39 localities. Because of this, there is a high degree of inbreeding in them, few young individuals and they also suffer from various diseases and genetic defects (we have also recorded albine ground squirrels).
From the genetic study of ZOO Bojnice (in cooperation with TUZVO), the key solution for the project was to genetically strengthen the population of these small ground squirrels. In the past, migrations of individuals between families happened naturally, as ground squirrel colonies were only a few kilometers apart. Today, the closest population to Bratislava is in Kuchyna (40 km) and another in Chtelnica (70 km), and there is a highway and other barriers between them. That’s why they need our help.
Now is the best time for it, as the ground squirrels have only recently woken up and have not yet had time to mate.
In addition to captures at the Bratislava airport, from which we will strengthen the populations in western Slovakia, we are also planning captures on the Muránská plain and in the Slovak Kras, from which we will strengthen closest populations.