The Grey Squirrel Gets Lucky
The Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis was first introduced to the British Isles in 1876. As a species it did exceedingly well and there were further importations and releases by landowners in following years. These included both Edinburgh and London Zoos. The Grey Squirrel bred and spread rapidly till today there is scarcely a corner of the United Kingdom where they do not occur. Although in an alien country this was perfect Grey Squirrel habitat.
It did not take long before realisation dawned that the spread of the Grey Squirrel contributed to the disappearance of the native Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris . There were a number of reasons why this should be the case but the most significant was a virus carried by the Grey Squirrel. The Grey's had a natural immunity to it whereas the Reds did not. Any Red Squirrel infected by the virus died.
Today the Grey Squirrel numbers in the millions within Great Britain and is a regular visitor to many Parks and Gardens. The Grey Squirrel is much more likely to be seen and such is its acceptance today that it is more likely to be depicted on greetings cards than the the native Red.
Red Squirrels today are confined only to a few locations within the UK and number less than 150.000.
Such acceptance of Grey Squirrels was not always the case. It did not take too long after the introduction after the first animals for it to be realised that they were a legion of cute invaders. Programmes were put in place to try and eradicate the Grey. These have had limited and often only temporary success.
Today it is illegal to release Grey Squirrels. Should you find an injured Grey Squirrel and nurse it back to health you will break the law by letting it go again. It would also be an offence to give freedom to a juvenile squirrel which you have hand reared.
Eastern Grey Squirrel at Home
The Grey Squirrel Gets Lucky
2010 saw the election of a coalition government within the UK. New laws planned and old laws to be repealed.
One of the first pieces of legislation which will be getting the boot is that which says you must report any sighting of Grey Squirrels in your garden.
So the Grey Squirrel Gets Lucky. It is doubtful that many people were actually aware that the law existed, so why waste time repealing it? It does however mean that another type of illegal alien has gained acceptance and a right to stay.
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