Managing invasive Siberian chipmunks Eutamias sibiricus in Italy: a matter of attitudes and risk of dispersal
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Eradication of invasive alien species is a form of pest control linked to biodiversity conservation, which usually involves animal killing. Squirrels are prominent among invasive alien species in Italy, with four species introduced. Three of them are included within the list of alien species of European concern, and their eradication and control is recommended. However, their local control is not an easy task, being often hindered by the general public. We propose a socio-ecological approach to evaluate the feasibility of eradicating Siberian chipmunks Eutamias sibiricus populations in Italy. We performed a structured questionnaire to assess the social perception of invasive Siberian chipmunks in urban parks, and to identify groups of visitors who might oppose eradication. We also carried out geographic profiling to test for the spatial expansion of chipmunk populations. Overall, park visitors regarded chipmunks positively and appreciated to see them, but human-chipmunk interactions were still rare. We did not identify any group of visitors with a strong attachment to chipmunks, who might oppose future control programs. Geographic profiling showed that chipmunks in Valeggio sul Mincio are starting to expand outside of their introduction site. Data from questionnaires show that chipmunks eradication, coupled with adequate communication initiatives, might be feasible. Moreover, geographic profiling indicates that time for a rapid removal is running out. Socio-ecological approaches, combining the analysis of structured questionnaires administered to stakeholders and statistical modeling of pest observations, could be a valuable tool to decide the feasibility and the urgency of invasive alien species control.
KeywordsAlien squirrels Eradication Geographic profiling Species control Socio-ecological model
The “U.O. Manutenzione e Valorizzazione del Verde Urbano” office of the Municipality of Roma provided us with permits to set the survey within urban parks in Rome. Authors would like to thank Davide Sogliani, who kindly helped in the fieldwork, Rocco Tiberti for recommendations, and Giulia Benassi, who provided them with data from previous surveys about chipmunk presence in Rome. Two anonymous reviewers provided us with useful comments, which improved our MS.
JC: Major contribution in the conception and design of the study, altogether with the analysis and interpretation of data and with manuscript drafting; EM: Conception and design of the study, data collection and interpretation of the data. Important contribution in manuscript editing; RZ: Conception and design of the study, data acquisition on the field, intellectual role in manuscript revision; AG, AC: Data acquisition on the field, data intepretation, intellectual role in manuscript revision; SB: Conception and design of the study, analysis and interpretation of data and manuscript drafting.
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