After reading this article, I took to my Instagram story to ask people what their thoughts were.
I had lots of replies saying they have mixed feelings: ‘grey squirrels are beautiful but they have taken over the red squirrels’. And I totally agree with this, I love grey squirrels and it is a joy to see them in the garden and out and about in the outdoors, but I have only ever once seen red squirrels, and that was on an island where there are no greys.
Another mixed feeling was ‘I support controlling invasive species and protecting native species like the red squirrel, but I worry about the wider ecological impacts of introducing contraceptives’. I think this is something they need to really look into. What effect will it have on grey squirrel’s predators, including raptors such as goshawks. But also what effect will the contraceptive have on the environment?
As well as mixed feelings, I’m there were a lot of people on each end of the scale. Some saying ‘great idea, poor little red squirrels have been driven out, it will give them an opportunity to recover their numbers’ but also ‘totally ridiculous – I definitely don’t support’.
One response was ‘I think that we should concentrate on getting the populations of Pine Martins out first, using a natural source to reduce the numbers of greys. And I think this is an area we should be definitely looking at – using natural predators before looking for chemical/unnatural sources.’ But another point responding to the Pine Martins was: ‘it’s totally unfeasible on a national scale, there are so many areas that couldn’t maintain a population of Martins but are over run by greys. And even if some areas could support Martins, the time involved would be years, working with the base levels of Pine Martins that we unfortunately have’. And this made me think, do we the time to do this? Will the reds suffer if we don’t take immediate action?
I am completely mixed on this topic. I think it will be great to get the red population up again, but I worry about the wider effects ecologically. Who knows? We’ll have to wait and see what’s to come…