A reader’s letter earlier this year gave the impression that grey squirrels are cuddly, friendly and do nothing wrong.
A few home truths are needed. Greys are officially classed as vermin, they do damage to young tree plantations, take wild birds’ eggs and kill young chicks. They did serious damage in my neighbour’s attic and to my garage door. The council pest controller used poison to remove them from my neighbour’s attic. Poison is a slow and painful death.
The 18th/19th centuries are history. Protecting wildlife is the flavour of the 21st century. Protecting vermin is not included.
The letter also says that greys are not contributing to the demise of reds.
One of the jobs of gamekeepers in the north of Britain is to cull trespassing greys to prevent the demise of the remaining reds.
A recent proposal to trap, bag and club to death a grey does not mention that putting your hand near to the sharp end is dangerous and could even result in the loss of a finger. A safer, quicker and more humane method to put down a captured grey is by a lead pellet.
There are proposals to put out feeders containing birth control treated feed. This would help stop greys from breeding. Ten years from implementation could see a drastic reduction in grey numbers and the chance for reds to start to recover. Funding is a problem and the government is reluctant to help.
Since polecats became protected in Ireland, greys’ numbers have decreased dramatically and their complete elimination is in sight. Reds being lighter are reasonably safe in trees from polecats.