MP calls for mass squirrel cull
I am not convinced that culling grey squirrels will solve the current problem and I would much prefer to see other solutions such as supplying red squirrels with additional food as suggested below.
I love visiting the botanic gardens because it is full of grey squirrels. They are cheeky little animals and they come up to you almost demanding food, there is a notice in the reception area advising not to feed them as some people have complained that they bite ... naughty squirrels, silly people.
The grey squirrel is a native of the deciduous forests of North America. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was considered to be a decorative addition to the native fauna and many were released at various sites throughout Britain.
A handful of grey squirrels were released in Ireland at Castle Forbes, County Longford in 1911 and have since colonised much of Ireland in less than 100 years.
The introduction of the grey squirrel to the British Isles has had a devastating effect on the native red squirrel population; which has declined rapidly over the last fifty years.Grey squirrels are particularly well adapted to life in deciduous woodland and outcompete red squirrels for available food. Often within fifteen years of grey squirrels arriving in this type of habitat the red squirrels population has disappeared.Red squirrels seem to be able to compete more successfully with grey squirrels in coniferous woodland and the two species can coexist if an area of woodland is large enough. Red squirrels can survive in some areas if they are given extra food. The food must be placed in special feeders that grey squirrels cannot use.Red squirrels are susceptible to a potentially fatal viral disease - Parapox virus. This can be carried and spread by grey squirrels who appear to be immune to the disease.
Not enough is being done to back a mass cull of grey squirrels aimed at saving the red squirrel population, according to Conservative MP David MacLean.
The reds are in drastic decline, and Mr MacLean, an MP in Cumbria, wants a pilot scheme run in Northumberland rolled out across the UK.
The scheme saw 17,000 greys destroyed, and supporters say this has led to a revival for the smaller red squirrels.
The RSPCA has said it questions whether culling is a long-term solution.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Redesdale has been overseeing the scheme in Northumberland, and says he has almost rid the area of the grey squirrel.
This has been achieved with a government grant of just under £150,000, a professional trapper and 300 volunteers.
By trapping the greys and then shooting them, Lord Redesdale said he was recreating space for the native red squirrels.
But Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, told Five Live the project was "absurd".
"It's hateful and bigoted," he said.
"The reason the red squirrel is endangered in terms of its population is because it is being persecuted by people.
"Up until the 1950s people killed them by the hundreds of thousands because they were considered pests, just like the grey."
There are only 140,000 red squirrels in the country, in comparison with 2.5m greys. It is believed that the greys have thrived because of their greater ability to compete for food.
Mr MacLean has accused the government of not providing a "small investment" which he says could see, in the long-term, a native British species to thrive again.