Squirrels – Grey v Red
Red squirrels are indigenous to the British Isles, whereas grey squirrels were imported into the UK in the 1870s as fashionable garden accessories.
Grey squirrels have thrived here, and are often blamed for the decline of the native red squirrel population. The grey squirrel is bigger and stronger, and more able to store fat in its body for winter than the red squirrel. Grey squirrels also manage to outbreed red squirrels, but the biggest factor is the Parapoxvirus. This virus is fatal to red squirrels, but not grey squirrels, although grey squirrels are carriers.
There are currently only about 10,000-15,000 red squirrels in the UK, but more than 2,500,000 grey squirrels.
Although red squirrel survival rates are not affected by the introduction of grey squirrels, there is a research that suggests that fewer female red squirrels will breed when grey squirrels are introduced to the area.
There is no doubt that controlling grey squirrel populations does leas to a dramatic increase in juvenile red squirrel survival and population recovery.
Red Squirrels are a protected species in the UK and it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a red squirrel or intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy any structure or place a red squirrel uses for shelter or protection, or disturb a red squirrel while it occupies such a place.
Grey squirrels are regarded as invasive non-native species, and are listed in the IUCN international list of 100 worst invasive non-native species. This highlights the damage that grey squirrels cause to our native flora and fauna; a problem severe enough to be recognised at a level of global significance.
This means the grey squirrel is regarded as a pest under the Wildlife Countryside Act, and it it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild, or allow one to escape. This means that if you trap a squirrel on your property you cannot release it into the wild as this act would be illegal.
If you have a squirrel problem call PESTUK on 0330 100 2811 (local rate) or 0800 026 0308 (free from land lines & some mobiles).