Sponsered a presentation at lunchtime today about saving the red squirrel in Wales. At present, the only effective way to do this is by killing lots of grey squirrels. This might cause anguish to sensitive souls (Lorraine Barrett comes to mind)but the options are either a mass kill of greys or shutting eyes and let the reds all die of squirrel pox. Anyone with a heart and who values biodiversity will go rushing out for a gun licence to despatch as many of these grey tree rats as they can find.
So many people think a squirrel is a squirrel - and whats in a colour. Well, a lot actually. They are two very different creatures. One is shy and needs a sizable area to survive while the other has the cheek of the devil and a destructive streak to match. The weight of the maximum density of greys for any given area is 10 times the weight of the maximum density of reds. The food requirement for greys in a given area is 10 times that for reds - which means that millions of birds eggs and chicks are eaten every year to satisfy the grey's voracious appetites. The reds eat seeds mostly. And in the long run, it will not be possible to maintain woodland cover in Wales because of the damage that greys do to trees. And reds and greys cannot live together because greys are riddled with pox, which kills the reds. Grey squirrels are really bad news.
In the longer run, the greys will be controlled by contraception - and I don't mean little rubber durex, but something in their food. Trouble is that if we want any reds to be left, we must launch serious eradication policies now. So "Come on Lorraine - get your gun out. Lets go a-huntin"