LIFE Sysel boosts European ground squirrel numbers in Slovakia

LIFE19 NAT/SK/001069. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

In Slovakia, LIFE Sysel has increased the population of European ground squirrels from 20 000 in 2020 to 36 000 today.

The European ground squirrel is a rodent found in central and southeastern Europe. Its numbers have dropped significantly due to a lack of grassland management and urbanisation. Parasites, diseases, flooding, trapping, poisoning and poaching also threaten the species.

The ongoing LIFE Sysel project aims to improve the European ground squirrel’s conservation status in selected parts of Slovakia, Czechia and Poland.

Actions include:

  • Improving the grassland management of habitats where the squirrels tend to be found.
  • Increasing food availability and decreasing predation pressures.
  • Taking care of individuals as required.

The project says that the recent rise in squirrel numbers was helped by translocating them among isolated colonies. Doing this has improved the genetic fitness and reproduction of populations.

Also, providing more food in bad weather and reintroducing grazing in areas where it had been absent for many years helped significantly.

The team plans on creating at least 190 hectares of new grazing habitats for ground squirrels in Slovakia. This is area the size of around 300 football pitches.

They also want to ensure the long-term sustainable management of grasslands by working with local stakeholders.

Data on the squirrel, especially its genetic structure, will be collected and examined.

Despite the population of ground squirrels dwindling across Europe, the numbers are rising in Slovakia.

This is a direct result of the LIFE project’s work.

‘We think the population of ground squirrels will continue to rise in Slovakia. So, we will keep taking the lead, and hopefully, other EU countries that are home to the species will follow,’ says LIFE Sysel project coordinator Katarína Tuhárska.

To this end, the aim is to replicate the project’s results in different EU countries where the ground squirrel lives.

LIFE Sysel supports the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Nature Restoration Law. It also contributes to the EU’s Habitats Directive.


Source: European Commission | News (