Grey squirrels are killed using a variety of barbaric but legal methods, including being clubbed to death and poisoned with warfarin, which causes the animals to bleed to death over several days. Their crime? Not being ‘native’ according to some.
Grey squirrels were brought to the UK in the nineteenth century. Highly adaptable, grey squirrels have made their homes in parks, gardens and woodlands.
Grey squirrels are also charged with ‘driving out’ red squirrels. But deforestation, as well as persecution by gamekeepers, had decimated red squirrel numbers before the greys were released.
Red squirrel numbers can be boosted in a number of ways without harming the grey squirrel, including establishing them on islands, changing tree planting patterns and offering supplementary feeding.
But there is a bigger question, as habitats and the climate continue to change, is it justifiable, or even practical, to try to force certain species to live in a landscape that can no longer support them? And, as new species move in and thrive, should they be eradicated, simply because they did not originate there?
Conservationists are just beginning to realise that the answer to these questions is no.
Five ways to help squirrels
- Write a letter to your local newspaper. See sample letters. If you don’t know its address, contact Animal Aid.
- Write to the government department, Defra and say you do not support the use of taxpayers’ money to kill squirrels
- Read The True History of Grey Squirrels in Britain by Independent Wildlife Consultant, John Bryant
- Volunteer at your local wildlife rescue centre.
- Look out for articles in papers and online about squirrels, and counter the false assertions.