Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Grey squirrel culls

In February 2017 it was widely reported that volunteers were being sought to participate in “Red Squirrels United”, an EU LIFE-funded Wildlife Trusts initiative aimed at protecting red squirrels and securing their future in the UK. Some of the reports suggested that volunteers would “teach the public and school children about the way in which greys have rapidly driven the reds to extinction across southern Britain since 1945”, and could undertake training to trap and kill grey squirrels by bludgeoning them over the head in a bag.

Red squirrel populations have declined over decades to an estimated 140,000 individuals, and are now largely concentrated in Scotland with isolated pockets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The reasons for their decline are complex, and include heavy historical persecution, changes in forest and woodland management, climate change, infectious disease, and competition with grey squirrels which were introduced to the UK in the 1870s and are currently thought to number around 2.5 million.

While Born Free fully supports carefully considered initiatives aimed at protecting and enhancing populations of red squirrels, the culling of grey squirrels is highly controversial, the conservation benefits for red squirrels are unproven, and recruiting members of the public to carry out the task will inevitably result in serious animal welfare concerns. The deployment of culling, particularly in areas not enclosed within a ‘hard boundary’, risks becoming a never-ending process as new populations of grey squirrels quickly re-establish themselves within culled areas.

Born Free’s Associate Director for Animal Welfare Chris Draper said: “Born Free advocates the adoption of a compassionate approach to red squirrel protection and proposed grey squirrel management, using the recently published International Consensus Principles for Ethical Wildlife Control as a key source of guidance. Efforts should primarily focus on the management of woodlands to favour red squirrels, grey squirrel contraception in areas where greys and reds interact, and the development and deployment of an oral vaccine against squirrel pox to protect vulnerable red squirrel populations.”  

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

Share | |