Azara Blog: Another campaign to persecute grey squirrels

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Date published: 2007/10/03

The BBC says:

Researchers are trying to find a way to stop grey squirrels reproducing, but can the menace ever be stopped?

To some they are "tree rats", to others unwelcome foreign invaders. They have even been reported to launch unprovoked attacks on humans.

Hated for its stripping of tree bark, threats to wild birds, but most of all for its "displacement" of the red squirrel, there are many people who would be happy to see the grey squirrel eradicated.

Now the Forestry Commission is carrying out research funded in part by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Scottish Natural Heritage to see if contraceptives can be administered in an effort to tackle the population.

But can its spread across the UK ever be stopped and would contraception eradicate them completely?

The most realistic outcome, the commission says, is that contraception will, along with trapping and poisoning, control the population. Getting rid of the grey will never be a meaningful option.

"The concept of eradication has come up a number of times, there have been bounty schemes, but that has been found to be ineffective," says Brenda Mayle, programme manager at the Forestry Commission.
Angus Macmillan, who runs the Grey Squirrels website, believes that control of the population is unnecessary and that the idea of exterminating one animal population to make another prosper is "bordering on ethnic cleansing".

"They shouldn't be controlled and I don't think they can be controlled. There are other methods of saving the red squirrel. Nature controls species."

Grey squirrels are persecuted, at least in part, for being seen as American invaders, Mr Macmillan suggests. But the red squirrel, which is being protected by greys being killed, might not be as native as people think. With the animals hunted as pests and affected by disease, Scotland's stocks were topped up in the 19th Century with squirrels from the continent.

Any contraceptive programme will not see an end to the killing of squirrels.

"It is not an alternative to lethal options," Ms Mayle insists.

In the 19th Century it was the red that was the pest, blamed for damaging trees. The tables are now turned.

It is unbelievable how much money is wasted on trying to persecute grey squirrels. The real enemy of the red squirrel is not the grey squirrel but humanity. And, as noted in the article, the red squirrel is not really any more "native" than the grey squirrel, it just happened to arrive some years earlier. Unfortunately a certain section of the academic middle class has decided, for no substantive reason, that grey squirrels are horrible and the rest of the country is being forced to fund their dreadful campaign against the species. It is amazing how much the people who claim to be promoting Nature actually hate and want to control Nature.

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