Red squirrels may be rallying against the grey invader
Like most people (I assume), I was oblivious to the fact that the greys were little more than vermin in this country, and as welcome as rats. When seen running around the garden, I was none the wiser, and assumed simply that the area I lived in was populated by greys. While this would be true, since there have been no red squirrels anywhere I’ve looked, it would also be wrong, since the grey is not native to Britain, and was introduced from North America. Worse still, it carries squirrel pox, to which it is immune, but the native red squirrel is not, and is generally fatal if caught.
In the UK, if a grey squirrel (also known as the eastern grey squirrel) is trapped, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to release it or to allow it to escape into the wild. Instead, it should be humanely destroyed.
The news usually carries stories reporting that squirrel pox has appeared somewhere, and that red squirrels have all but disappeared from an area: River Tweed squirrel pox outbreak action plan in place
However, a recent story suggests that measure put in place to allow the reds to become re-established are beginning to have an effect, and their numbers may be beginning to grow:
Heinz Trout, of Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, said the signs were encouraging.
“It is tremendous. We have had some really good reports from a number of people,” he said.
“I was contacted by a member of the public who lives in Annan and she said it was the first time she had seen a red squirrel in her garden and she had been living there for 47 years.”
He said another instance was at Castlemilk Estate near Lockerbie where there had been an outbreak of squirrel pox before and they had been sceptical about the impact of controlling grey numbers.
“The woodland manager there wrote to me and he was very pleased and a bit surprised that the reds are coming back,” Mr Trout added.
See also Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels
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