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Grey -v- Red, what’s your view?

by Darren

I’m sure regular readers will know my views on this subject, but given I want to have yours I’m not going to restate them here.  I’d be grateful if you’d take part in the poll below – I’ll try to keep both the summary and the answers balanced to both sides of this tricky argument.

A potted summary of the issue: The grey squirrel was introduced to the United Kingdom in the 19th century.  What the Victorians didn’t know is that greys carry a virus called squirrelpox which doesn’t affect them in any way – they just transmit it to others.  The virus is fatal to our native red squirrels.  Much of the UK is now red squirrel free.  According to the Forestry Commission, there are about 120,000 left in Scotland, 3,000 in Wales and 15,000 in England.  The only places in Southern England where there are reds are on islands such as the Isle of Wight and Brownsea.

For several years many have advocated killing greys to protect reds – indeed until last year householders who found a trapped grey squirrel were legally obliged to kill it (now they can contact an organisation such as a wildlife rescue centre who has a licence to release it).  Be under no illusion though, even though the word kill is very evocative, the consequences of letting nature take it’s course is a very painful death for reds who catch the ‘pox.

The other alternative is to catch greys near red populations and release somewhere else.  This hasn’t been tried as far as I’m aware, but it will most likely bring them into increased conflict with humans who don’t like the way they dig up gardens, strip tree bark and even enter houses and vehicles and chew through wires and other objects.