Perth residents are asked to look out for squirrels following a recent sighting in Victoria Park.
Department of Agriculture and Food invasive species manager Richard Watkins said Western Australia had no native squirrels and the Northern palm squirrel spotted was a feral pest.
Northern palm squirrels were familiar characters at Perth Zoo where they were deliberately released in 1898.
The squirrel population remained contained within the zoo grounds for many years but over time the squirrels spread throughout surrounding suburbs through natural dispersal and accidental movement via vehicles.
Northern palm squirrels are about the size of a rat with a bushy tail. Their backs are grey-brown in colour with white stripes running from head to tail, with a creamy white belly and a tail covered with long black and white hairs.
They move with rapid, darting movements and are good climbers.
Mr Watkins said the animals damaged plants by eating fruits and buds and could damage electrical wiring in houses.
“An assessment carried out by the department rated the Northern palm squirrel as an extreme pest risk and it was recognised nationally as a significant potential pest that posed a threat to agriculture, the environment and social amenity,” Mr Watkins said.
“As a result, a control program to reduce the squirrel population commenced in 2012.
“Now, only a very small number of squirrels remain in the South Perth area and an increase in squirrel numbers could threaten market gardens, backyard vines and fruit crops, damaging a wide range of fruit, nut and vegetable crops.
“Residents within a 30km radius of Perth Zoo are asked to look out for the Northern palm squirrel in their backyards and local parks and report sightings to the department.”
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.
Media contacts: Jodie Thomson/Dionne Tindale, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937