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Friday, November 10, 2006


From the Scotsman today

A FIVE-YEAR plan to save the red squirrel has ruled out the complete eradication of the invading hordes of greys, Scottish Natural Heritage revealed yesterday.

However, the £3.7 million proposal, which is being considered by the Scottish Executive, would see a campaign to drive back the North American greys with a targeted culling programme.

It is estimated that Scotland's population of 121,000 red squirrels, which represents about 75 per cent of all those in the UK, will be gone in 50 to 100 years if action is not taken to deal with their larger rivals, which carry a disease fatal only to the reds and generally out-compete them for food.

SNH has drawn up four options to save the red species and is recommending a limited programme of control of the greys, along with measures to help the reds survive. It is hoped this will help preserve red numbers while a vaccine for the deadly squirrelpox is developed.

There are about 250,000 greys in Scotland.
Recently Murdo Fraser [Conservative MSP & thus, despite all claims about Holyrood being less confrontational, beyond the Executive's pale] introduced a Bill to produce a bounty of about £5 per grey squirrel payable at police stations. This would have worked. It would have given the reds their ecological niche back. It would have been simple & cheap to operate.

Other MSPs & the "squirrel caring professions" held up their hands in horror & denouinced it for involving the public.

This, on the other hand is only designed as a holding operation until a "vaccine for the deadly squirrelpox is developed", something which may not happen & anyway involves visions of public employees then having to hunt down & inject all the red squirrels.

Still it has a good side - lots more jobs & more chance for SNH to empire build.

Ah, but how long before some enterprising soul did a cost analysis, and decided that at £5 a head it'd be worth intensively farming grey squirrels to claim the bounty?

Seriously, though, with the vaccine, it might be delivered in food put out for the red squirrels (I'm sure I've heard of a similar tactic used to deal with rabies outbreaks- mind you I can't remember where I heard that...). If so, why not leave bait laced with contraceptives for the grey squirrels in areas where they, not reds, are living. This would at least help to control their numbers. Is there any food that grey squirrels like that red squirrels don't touch?
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