By Johnny Caldwell
Grey squirrels should be given a contraceptive in a bid to prevent the wiping out of their red cousins.
A contraceptive suitable for grey squirrels is currently not available
That is the recommendation of a foresty expert following the publication of the 2007 Irish Squirrel Survey.
The all-Ireland report recorded no red squirrels in County Armagh with only 47 sightings across the rest of Northern Ireland in a seven-month period.
"A contraceptive product would remove the threat of red squirrel extinction," said Dr Michael Carey.
However, the co-author of the survey said such a product was not currently available.
"We first have to get it developed and then get it fed to the grey squirrels, who have the breeding capacity of rats.
"We don't want to see grey squirrels eradicated, just their number brought under control."
The Irish Squirrel Survey showed grey squirrels, which carry a virus which kills the smaller red variety, now populated a number of counties in the Republic for the first time.
It also warned if left unchecked the grey squirrel population could also affect the timber industry given its ability to remove vast amount of bark from trees.
The first grey squirrels to arrive in Ireland are thought to have been six brought over from England as a wedding present in 1911.
It is believed they were released into woods somewhere in County Longford in that same year.