Together we help protect the ground squirrel

The slopes of Lizniperky

Steppe grasslands are a valuable natural habitat surrounding Velké Pavlovice. They host a number of important, rare and endangered species of plant and animal. The European ground squirrel is a steppe species and can thrive in such environments. Following the end of traditional farming, however, mostly steppe lawns have disappeared only to be replaced by overgrown bushes. This is such a case for two hillsides just north-east of Velké Pavlovice, in the vineyard of Lizniperky.

Zarůstání strání

According to orthophoto maps, the steppe lawns in these areas were maintained up untill 2006. Since then, however, it has gradually overgrown with mostly Rose hip and Sloe bushes. Nevertheless, several rare steppe species were found in a botanical survey in 2018, and although the hillside is overgrown with bushes, the herbaceous vegetation was still in a relatively well-preserved condition. A random survey revealed the presence of European Michaelmas-daisy, Goldilocks aster, Pygmy iris, Boomrapes, very slender feather grass, European feather grass, European dwarf cherry, and fennel.

Dolní stráň v Lizniperkách

Lower slope in Lizniperky, Autumn 2019 (Photo credit: Ester Ekrtová)

The two hillsides are separated by grassy vineyards making the entire area a suitable environment for ground squirrels. Unfortunately, there are not many in the area. A small micro-colony is located about 150m from the area and isolated burrows are occasionally found along the hillsides or in vineyards between them. The overgrowth, however, can provide good cover for many predators. Presently, the area is too overgrown for ground squirrels which is why we haven‘t seen evidence of a permanent colony.

Horní stráň v Lizniperkách (autor foto: Ester Ekrtová)

Upper slope in Lizniperky, Autumn 2019 (Photo credit: Ester Ekrtová)

In agreement with the town of Velké Pavlovice, the land owner, the decision was made to clear the hillsides. More than 20 volunteers gathered on a November weekend to clear the hillsides. Starting with such vigor, they managed to clear the whole hectare over the course of the weekend. The removed branches will subsequently be used for heating. Now, when the ground squirrels wake up in the spring, they will find a new and safer area to move into. It will, however, be necessary to maintain the areas in the future. But for now, the bulk of the work is complete with the fantastic support of our volunteers and the local community, we thank them very much!

Dobrovolníci na vyčištěné stráni (autor foto: Kateřina Poledníková)

This action was completed with the project Sousliks for the landscape, landscape for sousliks - Monitoring and supporting the population of European ground squirrel in South Moravia II. Funded from ERDF / state budget. It is also published with the support of the Ministry of the Environment (MoE). The project does not have to express the views of the MoE.