The Badgers of Dromore Wood enjoy a varied diet but the staple foodstuff is earthworms. They will emerge from the burrows, known as setts, at dusk and begin foraging throughout the hours of darkness. As well as worms (two hundred of them preferably), Badgers will eat roots, flower bulbs, insects, eggs, frogs, fruits and berries, even the odd small bird or animal.
Extremely clean animals, Badgers regularly change the bedding from their underground chambers, removing the old and gathering new grasses, leaves and mosses. They also leave the site of the sett to attend to toiletry matters in an area known as a latrine. There are a number of active setts in Dromore Wood and the edges of the paths will often appear to be ‘dug up’ testament to the Badger’s nightly activity.
The Red Fox is another mammal that eats earthworms as a major portion of diet but like many other animals they will feed on whatever they can, fruits, berries, carrion, small birds and animals.
Irish Mountain Hare
Lepus timidus hibernicus
While no rabbits remain in Dromore Wood, the habitat is unsuitable for them; Irish Mountain Hares are often seen crossing through the woodland. The grassy meadow area of Dromore is super habitat for Hare’s and home for them is a simple depression in the open grassland, this is called a form. Their eyes, set at the side of the head allow the hare almost 360 degree vision, the long ears detect approaching danger and the long legs assist a speedy exit.
Madra uisce /Dobharchú
The early riser who watches the surface of the Dromore lakes and river is likely to see Otters at play, but don’t confuse them with the smaller but very similar water loving American Mink.
Dromore Wood’s most famous resident mammal is the Pine Marten. Once almost extinct through hunting, loss of habitat and trapping for their fur, these beautiful animals have always enjoyed a safe existence in Dromore. In recent years their numbers have increased and currently Pine Marten can be found in most counties of Ireland.
When species numbers fell to worryingly low levels in Killarney, Pine Marten from Dromore Wood were relocated there and obviously found their new home to their liking.
It is a habit of Pine Marten to mark their territory with droppings known as scats. These scats, generally of a horseshoe shape, will be found on rocks or hillocks or along the paths and tracks of Dromore Wood and it is possible to tell what the animals are feeding on at the time. In summer, cherry stones may figure highly in the scats, in autumn rowan berries and later on ivy berries.
A breakdown in percentages of the contents of 831 Pine Marten scats in a study made during the 1970s in Dromore Wood by Warner and O’Sullivan showed the following results:
|Bird or eggshell||17||18||21||16|
|Mammal, reptile, amphibian||14||16||10||12|
|Other; vegetable matter/soil||14||30||31||20|
It was also reported during the study that Dromore Pine Marten have a home range territory of 50 to 80 hectares for a male and 14 to 25 hectares for females. This would indicate that they live in healthy and rich mixed woodland in comparison to some Scottish pine marten reported to require a home territory of a minimum 126 hectares of woodland.
Pine Martens have an element of tolerance for humans even sharing their domicile, especially the roof space of a cottage or house in a nice quiet area.
On a number of occasions, Pine Martens have wandered into in the Information Centre including a visit onto the knee of an employee hoping to share the tin of sardines he had opened for lunch.
Although they are mainly nocturnal pine marten are regularly seen in Dromore Wood during daylight hours. The best chance of a sighting is during the summer months when they are constantly hunting to feed their kittens.
With no signs yet of the Grey Squirrel, the Red Squirrels living in the mixed woodland of Dromore Wood enjoy a healthy and rich, mixed diet. Pine cones are stripped of seeds in a manner that we would eat corn on the cob. Hazel nuts are plucked from the branches even before they are completely ripe, the shells no match for the sharp teeth of these rodents, while the numerous fruits, berries, shoots and even fungi are included in their diet.
Squirrels nest in dreys, spherical constructions of twigs and moss containing leaves and dry grasses built high in the fork of a tree. Like most of the mammals, Squirrels spend little time in hibernation and often venture out during the winter months. Then they will seek out cashes of food they have hidden in the ground – if they can find them.
Mustela erminea hibernica
‘Weasels are weasely mistaken for stoats, but stoats are stoatally different.’
There are no weasels in Ireland but stoats are members of the weasel family. A ferocious little mammal, stoats are just 12 inches long with their tail taking up half that length. Their diet includes mice, rats, rabbits, frogs, small birds and their eggs and invertebrates. Regularly seen in Dromore Wood, stoats have been present in Ireland for a very long time and their fossil bones have been discovered from around 30 thousand years ago. Irish Stoats are sub-species to those in other countries (other than the Isle of Man) and do not turn ermine during the winter. They are great hunters and will explore any likely looking nooks and crannies, especially along walls and in hedgerows.
The mini mammals of Dromore Wood include Pygmy Shrew an insect eating mammal, the recently introduced Bank Vole, first discovered in Ireland in Co. Kerry in 1964, and the Wood Mouse. The Wood Mouse loves to finish off the pine cones and hazel nuts that the Squirrel has discarded and will also gnaw tiny holes in the stones of wild cherry to feed on the soft kernel within.
At least eight of the nine species of Irish bats are known to inhabit the area of Dromore Wood and these are the Common and the Soprano Pipistrelle, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s, Whiskered, Leisler’s, Lesser Horseshoe and Brown Long-eared.
The various species of bat have preferred habitats for roosting and feeding and the area of Dromore Wood seemingly has ample diverse habitat to suit them. The Daubenton’s, for example, will feed on the river and lakes in the reserve picking moths and emerging insects off the surface of the water.
The rarest bat in Dromore is the Lesser Horseshoe, named because its face is so shaped. This is the only bat that actually ‘hangs’ whilst roosting. There are a number of known summer roosts of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, both in and on the perimeter of Dromore Wood.
A tiny pipistrelle, small enough to fit in a matchbox is thought to catch and eat up to three thousand insects a night, assisted by its personal radar system, echolocation.
During the summer months, there will be occasional Bat Walks in the wood when conservation rangers will host groups of enthusiasts and the general public and with the aid of bat detectors identify the various bat species. These walks are generally very well attended as interest in bats is encouragingly high.