In an earlier blog I disclosed conversations I had with French and Spanish red squirrels, and recently there has been a surprise twist to the vexed question of grey squirrel immigration involving none other than the Great Protector of redness, Prince Charles.
The Great Protector is the founder of the grand Squirrel Accord which states in its website that ‘Grey squirrels need controlling because they are causing major economic, social and environmental damage to the broadleaved woodlands of the United Kingdom. The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) was introduced to the UK from North America in 1876 and its population has grown rapidly since then. The problem of grey squirrels was first recognised in 1930 when a law was passed making it illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild.’
The Squirrel Accord points out that the freedom of movement granted to these interlopers has brought with it the pox which is spread by the greys and kills the reds. You may also recall from the earlier blog that French red squirrel accused the greys of ‘breeding like rabbits’: a point which has clearly been taken up by the Great Protector.
Squirrel Times recently reported that the Great Protector ‘is supporting government-backed plans to sterilise grey squirrels to protect native reds and save millions of broadleaf trees. The oral contraceptive, lasting several years, would result in a population crash, reducing numbers by more than 90 per cent from 3.5 million to fewer than 300,000, scientists believe. Prince Charles favours the idea partly because it is a humane alternative to culling. No grey squirrels would be killed under the scheme but the contraceptive, which could be concealed in chocolate spread, would prevent millions of births.’
I contacted French red squirrel about this news, he was aware of it and appalled that chocolate spread would be made available to the greys and not the indigenous reds. On the contraceptive issue he thought that culling was the least that the greys deserved for “coming over here and killing our trees”. Spanish squirrel was more restrained. He welcomed any move that strengthened the brotherhood of squirrels but he also felt that chocolate spread should be available to all squirrels though the contraceptive element must be optional. He praised the efforts of the Great Protector but was critical of his continued ownership of vast swathes of forest which he stated should be transferred to the Squirrel Brotherhood to be operated as a not-for-profit collective.