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MAMMALS - by Fintan Ryan

Fox

Very common in the Borris area and often venturing up Bog Lane. The population if anything has increased most likely due to less hunting.

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PHOTOGRAPH 11: FOX IN DEMESNE, APRIL 2020

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PHOTOGRAPH 12 BADGER CUBS NEAR BORRIS, JUNE 2014

Badger
 

Rarely seen but common enough with their elaborate burrows or setts primarily in the Demesne, Scort and Currane Wood.

 

They feed mostly on earthworms which make up around 80% of their diet. They are threatened a bit by the fact that they are known carriers of Bovine TB. Photograph 12 (left) taken by Padraig Kavanagh.

Otter

Very shy but occasionally seen on the Barrow and the local rivers. I remember in May 2015 while walking the viaduct seeing an otter swimming and hunting up the Mountain River beneath me.

 

Photograph 13 (right) was taken by me in February 2015 just above Ballyteiglea Lock.

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PHOTOGRAPH 13: OTTER, BALLYTEIGLEA, FEB 2015

Rabbit

In my boyhood rabbits were very common and a staple diet of those of us living in Borris. I made pocket money hunting rabbits for the family and selling locally from my bicycle in my teens. No problem with access to fields as farmers were delighted to have them taken as they competed with sheep and cattle for grass not to mention the danger of burrows for animals.

I was devastated to read on the Sunday Press, while sitting on a steam train at Borris Station in 1954, that myxomatosis had been introduced to Ireland locally. Within weeks the rabbit population had been infected, and almost all died a horrible death.

However, rabbits have survived, they say the ones that lived in burrows were more vulnerable than those who lived above ground in cover. The population seems to fluctuate. For example, there were high numbers in local fields in 2015 but scarce in 2020.

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PHOTOGRAPH 14: RABBIT UNDER VIADUCT

Stoat

 

A very small mammal and often called weasels locally. They are very curious and will usually flee to burrows only to pop their heads up seconds later to check what's going on — regularly seen running across the roads.

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PHOTOGRAPH 15: MINK SWIMMING IN  MOUNTAIN RIVER, MARCH 2017

Mink

 

Introduced for fur farming and escaped into wild and a particular threat to ground-nesting birds. Have seen them kill families of mallard chicks on the Mountain River.

 

Great swimmers and they almost eliminated the local waterhen population that had no inbred instinct to avoid them. They engage in surplus killing, killing all they can as happens when they enter hen houses.

 

The numbers in and around Borris thankfully seems to be in decline.

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PHOTOGRAPH 16: PINE MARTEN, BORRIS AREA, JULY 2012

Pine Marten

A native animal that was very rarely seen in my young days and now getting more and more common and often seen in the Demesne.

 

They are credited with helping to increase the population of red squirrels due to their predation on competing grey squirrels.

Red Squirrel

 

Common in my teenage years but rarely seen now, this native species is reestablishing itself locally with a number seen in the Demesne.

 

The grey invasive squirrel is now on the wane, probably due to predation by pine martens. This is likely a response to red squirrels sharing a landscape with pine martens over the centuries, with grey squirrels being relative newcomers to the threat that the pine marten poses.

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PHOTOGRAPH 17: RED SQUIRREL, DEMESNE, APRIL 2020

Hedgehog

 

Still common around Borris, mostly seen as casualties on the roads but occasionally seen ambling around gardens and fields looking for worms and slugs.

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PHOTOGRAPH 18: HEDGEHOG, BOG LANE, 2020