Monday, 1 December 2008

May contain nuts

Where do you stand on grey squirrels? Bushy-tailed rats, bird-molesting monsters, shooting’s too good for them?

‘These foreign interlopers, not even European,’ as one letter-writer to my local paper had it recently, have out-eaten and out-bred the native red squirrel (not to mention spreading the squirrel parapoxvirus, to which they are immune but which kills the reds) to the point where they have all but wiped out the indigenous population in most of England and Wales. That and a large number of our native birds, too, including the London sparrow, if you believe their enemies (personally, I suspect the cats).

And now Rupert Mitford, the 6th Baron Redesdale, has set up the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership (so-called ‘because if we called it the Grey Squirrel Annihilation League people might be a bit less sympathetic’), with a reported 900 volunteers across the country, to trap, shoot and otherwise exterminate the grey invaders. He’s even been trying out traps in my neck of the north London woods.

I’ve been at war with the greys for years. They eat my bulbs, steal the bird food, empty out the window boxes in winter and bite the buds off everything in the spring. Should I care? Why are the red ones cute and the grey ones a menace? Why do we want more sparrows and fewer pigeons? And is it really true that when Redesdale passes on his shot squirrels for food they have to carry the label: ‘May contain nuts’.


Fred said...

Grey squirrels are a delight - I spotted one fighting with a magpie the other day in a park when I was on a bus. I love the way they run in that undulating gaite... Of course red squirrels are cute - saw one on Brownsea Island last summer in a special Visitor Centre feeding window - but greys are fine by me. I wish I could remember the word that Germaine Greer used for people's negative attitude to insects - a bit like 'demonisation' only better! I hate it when people refer to our urban wildlife - foxes, seagulls, pigeons, grey squirrels - as vermin. It's not their fault!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Fred ... one day, I hope humans will finally understand.

'If we have learnt anything from the liberation movements, we should have learnt how difficult it is to be aware of latent prejudice in our attitudes to particular groups until this prejudice is forcefully pointed out.' Peter Singer

Save the grey squirrels.