Nature Notes – March 2023
by Andy Johnson
While admiring the spring flowers in the church yard, I noticed grey squirrels chasing each other along the church wall. This is the beginning of their breeding season and there was much squabbling. Grey squirrels were introduced in Britain in the 1870’s and spread rapidly, displacing the native red squirrel by a combination of greater physical size and reproductive capacity, allied to it carrying the squirrel pox virus, for which the red has no immunity.
Schemes have been introduced to reduce grey numbers and increase red, with some successes. In the long term the answer may lie with the pine marten which is very partial to greys. Due to their destructive nature, grey squirrels are classed as vermin and it is illegal to keep them as pets or release them into the wild. If you trap them they must be dispatched. Whilst researching this article I read legal guidance regarding the trapping of greys which went into the dos and don’ts of the operation. A final suggestion on the ‘disposal of carcasses’ – they can be eaten! I have a recipe for squirrel casserole!
Unfortunately, amongst their many destructive attributes greys have a penchant for lead flashing and pipes and can cause significant damage to property. Currently the church and the Old Rectory are under attack!