Wanted: Gray Squirrel
Gray Squirrel (Scirius caroliniensis) by Bailey Wild
How They Got to the Scene of the Crime
The Gray Squirrel is native to North America, but in 1876 they were transported and then into Henbury Park in the UK. It is unknown why, although it is speculated that it was viewed as an exotic animal that would be fun to observe. In little time the Gray Squirrels spread throughout the forests of the UK and took over the habitats of the smaller native Red Squirrel. The Gray Squirrels have more fat on them that helps them survive cold winters and adapts well to the forests throughout the country which allowed it to spread quickly.
What's the Problem?
The Gray Squirrel is wanted for stealing the habitat and resources of the native Red Squirrels, as well as committing mass genocide. The Gray Squirrel is twice the size of the Red Squirrel and thrives in similar habitats to its cousin, so when they are in the same environment the Gray Squirrel beats it out for resources. Also, the Gray Squirrel carries squirrel pox, as disease that it is immune to but devastates the Red Squirrel, and the disease wiped out large numbers of the native squirrel. Over 100 years after the Gray Squirrel was introduced to the UK, it now outnumbers the Red Squirrel 66-1.
How to Control the Takeover
To remove the Gray Squirrel, in Italy the government offers rewards for Grey Squirrel tails. However, killing individual squirrels is not going to prevent the population from increasing. Another strategy is to create habitats the Red Squirrels favor over Gray Squirrels by planting more conifer trees. Also, Red Squirrel feeders are being made that the smaller, lighter Red Squirrels can eat from but their larger gray cousins cannot.