The government has given the grey a reprieve until October by extending the current release permits
The Grey Squirrel in the UK was introduced around 150 years ago as a decorative addition to country estates with unintended consequences of out competing and dramatically increasing the rate of decline for our native red squirrel.
The reasons Greys are a problem for the Reds
Greys are quite a bit bigger than the reds and much more capable of surviving the winter and taking the food the reds rely on, this has seen the greys population rise to a near 2.5 million individuals. Together with the loss of ideal habitat reds need and the decimating effects of squirrel pox, that greys are much better coping with. The red squirrel population is near collapse, with red populations at around 15,000 individuals in fragmented sites mainly in the the North of the UK.
We recognise this issue and puts our conservation and regeneration objectives at odds with red squirrel conservation, and welfare of the Grey.
The government announced that no more release licences will be issued and existing permits will end at the end of March 2019. Meaning that rehabbers with release licences can no longer release the grey squirrel in the UK. We believe this is wrong because rehabbers releasing grey squirrels account for only 0.1% of its population and has no effect on the increasing territory of the grey.
The mission to eradicate the Grey from the UK will fail and only cause suffering to the Grey Squirrel that we have to speak out about.
Red squirrel conservation needs a multi-pronged approach. Example, greys do not like to cross open ground and doesn't do well in pine forests, this needs to be taken in to account to protect the fragmented red squirrel populations.
It's all about making the current territory of the reds unfavourable to the greys and build on conservation from there to help increase red numbers.
Prosecuting the grey will not help this. Also, the release licences issued up to now have been issued only to individuals that are not near any red squirrel populations, so a blanket ban will not affect reds at all. We should be working on habitat regeneration and focusing on giving the reds an edge over the grey.