Poll: Should the grey squirrel be culled with public money?

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Landowners are to be paid millions of pounds of public money to grey squirrels under the first national plan for managing their numbers.

Under the scheme, designed to protect red squirrels and woodland, only those who agree to deal with the animals on their land will be eligible for forestry grants from the Government or European Union.

But they will be able to apply for funding of £100 per hectare per year for five years to help them cull the squirrels using whatever method they prefer.

The money could be used to buy warfarin to poison them, or for buying traps so they can be trapped and shot.

There will also be Government funding available to help neighbouring landowners cooperate to control numbers together.

Tens of thousands of grey squirrels could be culled each year under the new plans, which will be set in motion this month.

Further sums will be spent on scientific research into vaccines to stop the animals breeding so rapidly.

Under the Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order of 1937, people can be prosecuted for failing to report a grey squirrel in their garden – the UK has around five million grey squirrels Photo: ]Alamy

The requirement to cull grey squirrels would affect landowners who had identified the animals as an issue and who wanted to receive funding for woodland and other related projects.

The plans are laid out in a Forestry Commission document, which says that grey squirrels “out-compete our native red squirrels as well as spreading the squirrel pox virus to them.”

The animals are also blamed for causing up to £10 million in damage to British woodlands every year, acting as a disincentive to the planting and managing of trees.

The document says: “Efforts to control grey squirrels in England’s woodlands need to be more effective, better coordinated and sustained in order to protect and enhance our vulnerable population and to reduce impacts on woodlands so that they can thrive for biodiversity and economic interests.”

The Forestry Commission said it could not put an exact figure on how much money would be handed to landowners to fund the culls but said the new grants were likely to be worth millions of pounds.

The plan was drawn up after the Government asked the Forestry Commission to review the current approach to grey squirrel control and assess how effective existing measures were in addressing “the threats posed by grey squirrels both to woodlands and to red squirrels.”

In March, Oliver Heald, the Solicitor General, told MPs that eradicating the grey squirrel was “no longer considered feasible.”

But in October, the Prince of Wales ordered a cull of grey squirrels on the Duchy of Cornwall estate in a bid to protect the red variety and it is now hoped other landowners will follow his lead once the new policy comes in force.

Grey squirrels were imported from America to the UK in the 19th century, when they were seen as a fashionable addition to estates.

The UK has around five million of the animals, while the number of red squirrels is estimated at between 120,000 and 140,000, with 75 per cent of them in Scotland.

Animal charities are opposing the plans for culling greys.

Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, said: “People have been responsible for wiping out the red squirrel. It’s an excuse to blame the grey squirrel.

“They’re on a list of animals that are considered pests but they’re an indigenous species.

“The damage they do is exaggerated. Attempts to purge the landscape of them in the past have failed and this will fail too.

“It amounts to a bigoted pogrom.”

We invite you to share your opinion whether “Grey squirrels should be culled with public money”. Please vote and also leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should grey squirrels be culled with public money?

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The editorial content of this article was first published by The Telegraph on 03 Jan 2015.

 

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Sue Lesmond

leave our animal friends alone.Humans need to be culled, not animals.

Liz Woolley

No culling at all!! Restore balance to nature by re-planting the forests and returning the predatory owls and other raptors.

Diane Holsinger

Leave things alone let nature take care of it If there is a problem

You will poison a lot of other animals birds in the process

Stay out of it

Jane Mäger

Using Warfarin and other anticoagulents will not just kill the squirrels; it will kill pets that end up playing with and eating parts of dead and dying squirrels and predators that include the squirrel in their diet and help provide natural population control. Typical control methods employed (poisons, traps, etc.) result in far too much collateral damage for non-target species. If the squirrel is truly overpopulated, it should be hunted (and hopefully eaten); and, efforts should be made to boost the population and territories for it's natural predators.

Susan Lee

Why don’t you folks consider importing pine martens and replacement raptors as natural predator- controllers of the squirrels? In my own neighborhood i have seen sharp-shinned hawks, barred owls and red tailed hawks “on the job” after squirrels flipping their tails once too often … 🙂 As far as red “versus” gray, they each eat different items, so their IS NO “versus” between them any more than differing species of deer eating different kinds of greenery (don’t TRY to tell me that there are neither roe deer nor red deer in your wild lands unless you’ve hunted them to extinction… Read more »

Leigh Lofgren

What is wrong with you people? Poisoning and killing squirrels? Stop this insanity and leave the animals alone – so sickening and do hope it can be stopped

Karen Crawford

The idea of killing innocent gray squirrels is absolutely abhorrent. Gray squirrels are harmless and killing gray squirrels to make sure that red squirrels survive is just ludicrous. Leave these beautiful gray squirrels alone and let them live in peace.

Iain Gibson

As a lifelong dedicated nature conservationist it makes me sad that we have come to this. Due largely to prejudice and bad science, 37% (currently) of voters in this poll are not only prepared to support a wholly unjustifiable cull of grey squirrels, but are also willing to see a huge amount of public finance being wasted in the process. There are far more deserving causes which could use this money to do something positive and constructive to help our wildlife. Examples are simply too numerous to mention. It’s time we got rid of this horrible gamekeepering element from the… Read more »

Anne Grice

This is abhorrent! What about the overpopulation of human parasites? Why aren’t they culled? This is disgusting and wrong!

Susan Lee

Why don't you folks consider importing pine martens and replacement raptors as natural predator- controllers of the squirrels? In my own neighborhood i have seen sharp-shinned hawks, barred owls and red tailed hawks "on the job" after squirrels flipping their tails once too often … 🙂 As far as red "versus" gray, they each eat different items, so their IS NO "versus" between them any more than differing species of deer eating different kinds of greenery (don't TRY to tell me that there are neither roe deer nor red deer in your wild lands unless you've hunted them to extinction… Read more »

Iain Gibson

As a lifelong dedicated nature conservationist it makes me sad that we have come to this. Due largely to prejudice and bad science, 37% (currently) of voters in this poll are not only prepared to support a wholly unjustifiable cull of grey squirrels, but are also willing to see a huge amount of public finance being wasted in the process. There are far more deserving causes which could use this money to do something positive and constructive to help our wildlife. Examples are simply too numerous to mention. It's time we got rid of this horrible gamekeepering element from the… Read more »

Leigh Lofgren

What is wrong with you people? Poisoning and killing squirrels? Stop this insanity and leave the animals alone – so sickening and do hope it can be stopped

Karen Crawford

The idea of killing innocent gray squirrels is absolutely abhorrent. Gray squirrels are harmless and killing gray squirrels to make sure that red squirrels survive is just ludicrous. Leave these beautiful gray squirrels alone and let them live in peace.

Anne Grice

This is abhorrent! What about the overpopulation of human parasites? Why aren't they culled? This is disgusting and wrong!