Monday, 2 November 2015

The place that has wiped out grey squirrels

26 October 2015

The red squirrel has been in severe decline in the UK but one island has completely eliminated grey squirrels to promote a red resurgence. Could it lead to a wider programme of eradication, asks Rachel Argyle.

Once common, red squirrels have declined rapidly in the UK since the 1950s, falling in numbers from about 3.5 million, to a current estimated population of around 130,000.

Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales, declared itself a grey squirrel-free zone earlier this year after an 18-year cull.

Now, it's been announced that a share of £1.2m of Heritage Lottery Fund money will see the cull of grey squirrels extend to the neighbouring county of Gwynedd, where no native nutkins have been spotted for nearly 70 years.

Grey squirrels, said to have been brought to Britain from the US in the 19th Century, crossed the Menai Strait between Anglesey and mainland Wales in the mid-1960s. By 1998 the species had replaced the red squirrel almost completely, with only 40 red squirrels remaining.

It's long been believed that greys act as carriers of squirrel pox - which kills reds.

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