The red squirrel was, for many decades, persecuted by foresters and gamekeepers, with a price put on their head. Millions were killed. The red has also been a victim of coniferous woodland destruction. They were in decline before the grey was introduced 100 years ago as an ornamental species.
The grey squirrel has now become so established that it is here to stay. It has flourished because it is more sturdy, opportunistic, faster at breeding and better evolved than the red to fit the new woodland environment that we have created.
Killing even large numbers of grey squirrels will have little or no long-term effect on their population.
To encourage the native red squirrels and discourage greys we need to review habitat management and tree-planting policies and provide coniferous woodland habitats that are favourable for reds as opposed to greys. An effective long-term solution does not need to involve needlessly killing our wildlife.
Ross Minett, director, Advocates for Animals, Queensferry Street, Edinburgh