Bats and Squirrels: Balancing Biodiversity

I love my cats. They keep the rat and mouse population36906206 at bay.  But they also have brought in some species that we would rather they did not think were exotic squeak toys.

We live out in West Cavan near the Northern Ireland border. Because of the thirty years of troubles this area became depopulated of humans but the wildlife really moved in.  I have recorded rare damselflies. We rejoice in the frogs that we hope will eat the slugs before they eat the zucchini.

But what has me worried is our cat  Zymina’s latest offering, a horseshoe bat.

We have a colony of red squirrel and horseshoe bats in the spruce plantation directly in front of our house. Both are endangered and protected species. I have had a running correspondence with the Dept. of Environment to make sure the our county council observes both the spirit and letter of the law with regard to this colony of red squirrel, who are being rapidly out competed by the interloper, the American grey squirrel.

Up until now they reckoned that the River Shannon was the bulwark against the leaner, meaner American grey. But last Christmas my friends found an American grey squirrel caught in their chimney. Their house is just beside the River Shannon.  It’s not particularly wide at that point and has many trees.

The Shannon is not Alcatraz. The enemy has crossed the lines using the tree tops that overhang the river beside my friends’ home.

The Department of Environment is considering setting up a red squirrel reservation in County Mayo, which sounds a fairly depressing option to me. I hate to think of my neighbours getting evicted.

We have imposed a kitty curfew on the two cats lured into the house at dusk with a rattle of food dishes. They can play out in the daylight but for the bats’ sake we do have this house rule. Given cats’ reputation for independent thinking this curfew has worked with rare exceptions.  Either that or they really can understand my lectures on “Rats, mice – good offerings. Bats, frogs – BAD CAT!”

But for the red squirrel I am not sure what we can do except to protect their habitat and hope that the grey squirrel my friends trapped and released back into the wild scampered back heading towards Longford.

Most people think country life is about cattle or fowl, following the cycles of lambing and calving, protecting the chickens from predators like fox and mink.  But for me, country living has meant a deep engagement with the wild species.  I needed a reference book to find out their names, learn their habitat and needs.  This has been the real adventure of country living out here in the wilds of West Cavan, Ireland in the twenty-first century.

About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.

One thought on “Bats and Squirrels: Balancing Biodiversity

  1. How many red squirrels would you like? If only there were some way to teleport them from our Canadian prairie home to West Cavan, we would happily send you as many of the destructive little rascals as you could handle! Around here, they chase off the grey squirrels, which is fine by us. Just goes to show, I guess, that a good thing in moderation becomes a nuisance in excess.

    Johanna Rodger
    Argyle, MB CANADA