Target: Sir Harry Studholme, Chairman, United Kingdom Forestry Commission
Goal: Find humane alternative to cruel and ineffective squirrel cull
Landowners participating in a grey squirrel cull will be paid up to £500 (about $750) of taxpayer money each, according to a new plan set forth by the United Kingdom Forestry Commission. Landowners will be eligible for grants of £100 (about $150) per year for five years in exchange for trapping, poisoning, or shooting grey squirrels. Creators of the plan are hoping that a decrease in the grey squirrel population will result in red squirrel populations increasing.
Grey squirrels, while not native to the United Kingdom, have established a thriving population since their introduction in the early 1900s. Their digestive system, which differs greatly from that of the red, allows them to eat a greater variety of food as well as retain a significantly larger portion of the food’s nutritional value. They are a carrier for the squirrel pox virus, which is benign in grey squirrels yet deadly to the reds. This, compared with higher birth rates in grey squirrels, gives them the survival advantage over red squirrels.
There is no evidence that culling or placing bounties on grey squirrels has resulted in a lasting population decline. Because the animals are so hardy and colonize areas so quickly, new grey squirrels are more likely to replace their predecessors than red ones. At this point, with 3-5 million grey squirrels in the United Kingdom, culling is likely to be an ineffective use of resources and time.
There are several alternatives to a cull that could prove both more humane and effective at increasing red squirrel populations. These include vaccinations against squirrel pox, contraception treatment for the greys, and focusing conservation efforts in areas where no grey squirrels exist to compete. Sign the petition below to demand that rather than a squirrel cull, taxpayer money is redirected to a more humane alternative.
Dear Sir Harry Studholme,
The Forestry Commission has recently announced a plan to provide government grants to landowners willing to shoot, trap, or poison grey squirrels on their property. This cull, while designed to promote the conservation of the rarer red squirrel, is likely to be ineffective at reducing grey squirrel populations in the long term due to the species’ hardiness.
Many alternatives exist that could prove a far more efficient use of taxpayer money, including vaccinations against squirrel pox and directing conservation efforts to areas without grey squirrels in order to establish a thriving population that will spread out. We, the undersigned, demand that this cruel and inefficient cull be cancelled.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: birdphotos.com via Creative Commons