Perth residents are being urged to keep an eye out for squirrels “about the size of a rat with a bushy tail,” after a recent sighting in the inner-city suburb of Victoria Park. The West Australian Department of Agriculture and Food – whose clutches the squirrels have been evading for years – said on Friday “they move with rapid, darting movements and are good climbers”.
Local residents in the ‘squirrel zone’ – about a 30 kilometre radius from Perth Zoo – are urged to look “in their backyards and local parks and report sightings to the department,” using a pest-spotting app.
It is unclear whether Barnaby Joyce – the Federal Minister for Agriculture, and would-be Deputy Prime Minister, who threatened to kill Johnny Depp’s potentially disease-ridden dogs – has access to the database of sightings. The ‘five striped’ squirrel are seen as “an extreme pest risk”.
Western Australia’s Invasive Species Manager Richard Watkins said the Perth squirrels pose a “threat to agriculture, the environment and social amenity”. They bite electrical wire. They eat bird’s eggs, and fruit, nut and vegetable crops.
Native to India, the squirrels were released into the South Perth Zoological Park in 1898. A separate colony in the locality of Toronga Zoo, Sydney, was overcome in 1976, but in the case of the Perth squirrels, at least, “accidental movement via vehicles” is said to have helped keep rogue populations alive.
According to the Department of Agriculture and Food, “the squirrels have no enemies in Western Australia”. (Except, ‘possibly’, domestic cats.) Their backs are a “grizzled grey-brown colour”.
White stripes run from their head to tail, and they have a creamy white belly, and “a tail covered with long black and white hairs”. They breed in grass nests, and individual squirrels have even been spotted “occasionally in country localities”.
— DAFWA Media (@DAFWAmedia) January 29, 2016
If you see a squirrel:
“Reports can be made using the department’s MyPestGuide Reporter app, a mobile and online pest reporting tool that allows people to take up to four photos and send a report directly to the department.”
“Experts identify the pest reported, reply back to your device, and map it online.
Reports received help the department monitor and control the spread of the squirrels.
The MyPestGuide Reporter app was developed as part of the department’s Boosting Biosecurity Defences project made possible by Royalties for Regions.
Squirrels can also be reported to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on freecall 1800 084 881.”
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