YP Letters: Senseless cruelty of killing the grey squirrels

From: Natalia Doran, Urban Squirrels, London.

A red squirrel in Smardale Gill near Kirkby Stephen in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture Tony Johnson.

SQUIRRELS, red and grey, are wonderful creatures that are entertaining to watch. But preferring one to the other to such an extent as to kill the squirrels whose type does not please you is both irrational and extremely cruel.

Both types of squirrels perform the same function in the ecosystem (although it must be noted that grey squirrels, who scatter-horde, are better at seed dispersal and therefore forest regeneration than red squirrels, who larder-horde in one place).

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Neither species is endangered. Red squirrels are very rare here in the UK, but that is because of habitat loss. They are abundant in other countries of the world. Crucially, neither species is native.

The native British sub-species of red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris leucurus, virtually disappeared by the end of the 18th century before grey squirrels were introduced, and were replaced by introductions from Scandinavia, from whom most of the red squirrels living in this country today are descended.

So preserving this, genetically largely non-native animal in a habitat that is no longer suitable for them, has very limited, if any, conservation value. Doing it at the cost of thousands of grey squirrel lives is, furthermore, morally indefensible.