Grey squirrels are a ‘menace’ to UK nature, green experts warn

Grey squirrels are a ‘menace’ to UK nature, green experts warn

11/30/2023

Grey squirrels are a “menace” to British biodiversity which endanger their threatened red counterparts, green campaigners have warned.

Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie has urged the government to implement measures to reduce the population of grey squirrels and protect their native red cousins.

She said: “Red squirrels have been under threat from their American grey cousins since their introduction here in the 19th century and Anglesey as an island is one of the few strongholds left for this animal in the UK.

“We must do all we can to protect this native species and that does mean keeping the population of greys down to allow our red squirrels to thrive where they can.

“Controlling greys needs to be done humanely. We will need competent people to trap and shoot them and I know there are plans for contraceptive techniques to be deployed too, alongside gene editing research and development.”

Red squirrels are classified as endangered on the Red List for Britain’s Mammals, having declined to approximately 160,000 or so in the UK.

The economic cost of damage from grey squirrels to woodlands, excluding costs to UK biodiversity, has been estimated at £37 million a year in England and Wales.

Kitty Thompson, nature programme manager at the Conservative Environment Network, said: “Grey squirrels are a menace to British biodiversity. As well as driving down our red squirrel population, they harm our trees and woodlands.

“By stripping them of bark, grey squirrels can severely damage trees, leaving them vulnerable to pests and disease, or even killing them.

“If we are to meet our biodiversity target, we need to do something about grey squirrels.

“Grey squirrel population control must go hand in hand with red squirrel habitat restoration. Pine martens, another endangered species in England and Wales, can control grey squirrel numbers whilst coexisting with their red counterparts.

“We should support pine marten reintroduction projects and the vital accompanying research to save our red squirrels and woodlands.”

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