Invasive animal species no.1 – the grey squirrel

The grey squirrel is a small rodent frequently seen across most of England and Wales – its lively character makes it quite an entertaining creature to watch and it seems to blend in perfectly in our woodlands or city parks. However, this is a species which is not native to Britain and since its introduction in the 19th century it has wreaked havoc on our ecosystems.

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Originating from North America, they were first imported to be released onto estates but soon spread beyond and began to impede on the lives of the native species already existing there.

Perhaps the most famous example of these is the red squirrel, whose population has declined dramatically due to being out-competed by the greys for food and by being infected with squirrel pox virus. Grey squirrels are carriers of this disease but unfortunately it proved to be fatal for the reds.

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Grey squirrels also strip the bark off trees such as beech and oak, and on occasion are known to take birds’ eggs from their nests.

So, should grey squirrels be culled? There is a law that allows the UK to poison, trap and kill the rodents, but is it the right thing to do?

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Whilst it would aid the red squirrel population, it could be argued that the greys have been here for a decent length of time now and to remove them could cause more disruption to the ecosystems that they have become a part of.

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It may also be worth considering that it is only through the actions of humans that these squirrels arrived here in the first place – would it be fair to kill them because of our own mistakes?

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In my opinion the situation should be carefully assessed before any drastic action is taken. Numerous culls of other animal species have been ineffective so if this was decided as the course of action then it should be carried out in a controlled area beforehand so that the effects could be monitored.

As sad as it would be to see the death of hundreds of squirrels, it could be for a greater good.

 

Sources used in this blog post:

RSPB – http://www.rspb.org.uk/

The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/uk

The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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