The Grey Squirrel
is it time to pack its bags?
Herbrand Russell, the 11th Duke of Bedford, introduced grey squirrels into the park at Woburn Abbey in the 1880s. He also introduced a large population into Regents Park in London and Richmond Park in Surrey. He is not the only person to do so, and the cute little rodents started arriving in the 1870s. The Victorians loved to bring back animals and plants from all over the world, many of which have become invasive species and caused problems.
The Grey Squirrel - a Pest?
The grey squirrel is one such problem. Although charming to watch, these squirrels are pests outside of their native North America. Now estimated to number 2.7 million, they have decimated the British native red squirrel. Greys carry a virus, squirrelpox, to which they are immune but to the red squirrel is deadly. Being larger and more aggressive, grey squirrels have forced red squirrels into a retreat. You can only find reds in parts of the north of England, in Scotland, the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour. The whole population is estimated to be only 140,000.
The damage is not limited to the loss of the red squirrel. The greys damage trees and prevent the growth of newly planted woodlands as they will strip the bark from young deciduous trees. They eat birds' eggs and even the chicks causing another problem for struggling British wildlife.
Controlling Grey Squirrels
Plans to control the grey squirrel in a new way have recently been announced. It is hoped that feeding the greys an oral contraceptive contained in a hazelnut paste will work. In the meantime, the practice of shooting them in areas where red squirrels are threatened will continue. The squirrels breed rapidly, and with many in parks and urban regions, shooting will never be able to control or eradicate them. A word of warning; be careful in parks where squirrels can appear tame and take food from your hand. Some have been bitten by these little creatures’ very sharp teeth.
There is a family of squirrels that visit my garden. Their visitation does not go well with my wife, who puts out food for the birds, which the squirrels devour!
What do you think about the grey squirrel? Is it time to take control and let local nature get back to what it should have been without them? Please leave a comment.
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing it on your social media channel. Click the link below. I appreciate your support.
Thanks for reading Roland’s Travels! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.