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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 16:26 GMT
A little grey haven



Newsnight's editor has gone public with his support of the grey squirrel.

"While everyone wants to save the red squirrel," says creature comforter Peter Barron, "the same people seem perfectly content to exterminate greys because they're alien to this country and considered pests."

Grey squirrel

Well, Newsnight has decided to create a little online safe haven for the grey squirrel and its stash of nuts.

Are you partial to a grey squirrel or two? Do you think greys are undeserving of their bad press? Why do the reds have all the fun?

If you'd like to do the e-mail equivalent of waving your little grey paw in the air like you just don't care, then send us your messages of support via the form below, or e-mail your squirrel pictures to newsnight@bbc.co.uk.

The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.




A squirrel; photo sent in by Emma Bell
I love all squirrels, red or grey. I put nuts out for them every day and watch the little grey squirrels in my garden. I love them and I do not want them killed.
Pauline, Leeds

Anyone can be a red-head, it takes guts to stay grey.
JJ, Alamo, California

Language becomes treacherous once we elect to push an animal into an arbitrary category of pest
Johanna Firbank
This subject is not a joke. Safe havens and conducive environments for reds are required, also protection for greys. The reactionary idea of "culling" is a disgrace. Where will it end?
Simon Zonenblick, Leeds

I have mixed feelings about grey squirrels. They are a pest when they make holes in your lawn, digging up bulbs and searching for nuts that they think they have put there, and taking food that is put out for little birds. I have been so inspired by them that I wrote poems about them.
Jim Henderson, Deeside Flintshire

We rarely see squirrels here in France, whereas when in England we are delighted to see the vast variety of wildlife, particularly pheasants and partridges in the hedgerows. As you probably know the hunters' lobby is very strong in France. They have managed to protect their rights to shoot just about everything that moves. Don't let it happen in the UK.
Philip, Toulouse, France

Are grey squirrels turning red? Ours are definitely turning rusty. Nuts to the red squirrels.
William, Holywell

Grey squirrels seem to be so much better equipped for the urban environment
Ian Merry
I am pleased to see the grey squirrels playing in our garden - they are amusing little animals and the cunning antics they get up to to get at the nuts we hang out for birds show a tremendous resourcefulness. I certainly would not support a cull.
Tony Burleton, Wembley

Language becomes treacherous once we elect to push an animal into an arbitrary category of pest, vermin or (in the case of a grey squirrel) "tree rat". The category shift licenses us to act callously towards the grey, while sentimentalising its cousin the red. Professor AC Grayling was right to suggest comparisons with Nazi rhetoric - that virtuous reds are our pure island breed; the greys are just not Aryan. Euphemisms flourish when conservationists urge "removal" or "clearance" of greys from areas of Britain to recreate an idealised red homeland. What are the numbers and methods of this final solution? How many scores of greys are to be slaughtered, and how?
Johanna Firbank, Dolwyddelan

We have a couple living in our garden and I always feed them - they hide the nuts in our lawn but I don't mind because I think they're fab and they always entertain me while I eat my breakfast. I feed the birds and the squirrels and they don't seem to have a problem with each other. My garden is always full of birds and squirrels and that makes me happy and most importantly they are happy.
Miss Emma Bell

Grey squirrels seem to be so much better equipped for the urban environment. The greys blend in with the stone and concrete of our cities. They are true urban warriors in search of peanuts. The greys and their perceived plan for squirrel world domination is a fascinating thing to watch and a great introduction to wildlife for young people. I'm one of the lucky ones in that I've seen some red squirrels, very briefly, as they are so shy and fast. This is quite understandable given that every time mention is made of red squirrel the word extinction follows on. My personal urban habitat is much improved by the addition of active and interesting squirrels. They coexist with a variety of wild birds in the garden and even seem to have come to some sort of similar agreement with the local cats. Diplomats or Mafioso I don't know, they keep me amused for the price of a handful of peanuts.
Ian Merry, Glasgow

'Our' reds are just as foreign as the greys
Robert Clothier
I have a lovely grey squirrel that sits on my lounge window sill each day and eats cashew nuts that I put out for it - I love it. It is so cute and gentle, it likes to come into the house and eat nuts.
Paula, Milton Keynes

The item in your programme made no mention of the fact that red and grey squirrels have different diets, and that the reds are probably finding it difficult to find the particular nuts they need because we have destroyed much of their natural habitat. I hand reared a baby grey squirrel (called Cyril, of course) and he spent most of his childhood in my cardigan pocket, occasionally popping out to sit on my shoulder or my head. He was a lovely fun person to have around, and my children and I were very sorry when it became necessary to introduce him to the wild. Hey, grey squirrels do far less damage than we are sometimes led to believe, and are worth having around if only to demonstrate just what can be achieved with a walnut sized brain.
Christopher Gunning, London

I am definitely for the little creatures. I feed both squirrels and birds in my garden but what I do is feed them separately - bird seed at the bottom of the garden and nuts for the squirrels by my back door so I can see them eat. I do watch them and they don't pester the birds. I can't keep pets because I live in rented accommodation and it's really one way of having nature right at my doorstep! On the other hand, I also am concerned for the red squirrels.
Emma, London

I think the friendliest thing we could do for the grey squirrel is to ship them all back to the good old USA
David Dunwoody
"Our" reds are just as foreign as the greys. There used to be a British red (their tails bleached in winter) but it vanished long ago when its gene pool combined with that of the many continental reds we imported to make up the numbers of British reds (which were dying out long before the greys arrived). Culling greys is, consequently, unhinged behaviour.
Robert Clothier, London

I love greys we have got the baby squirrels coming right up to the door for nuts! My husband is a fascinated Kiwi who never saw a squirrel in his life before he came to London and he adores our little brood. They are clever, sweet and fun to watch.
Mandy Clark, Balham

I love all squirrels, and I think the friendliest thing we could do for the grey squirrel is to ship them all back to the good old USA. Those little fellas must be really homesick by now!
David Dunwoody, Limavady

I think the greys are wonderful little animals and I love when they come up close in the gardens and parks of Edinburgh. I see no reason why people who want them culled can't just look at them through rose tinted glasses.
Ian Burden, Edinburgh

I'm quite happy to see the greys in my neck of the woods carry on as they are. However, I would like to see the reds regain a little territory.
Simon Rogers, Orpington




A Cumbrian red squirrel with squirrel pox; photo sent in by Jo Kirkbride
A Cumbrian red squirrel with squirrel pox; photo sent in by Jo Kirkbride
We have unique Cumbrian red squirrels which have been proven to be the original indigenous British red squirrel - that is, no European genes. Grey squirrels have now arrived in Cumbria - if greys are not controlled then the indigenous red squirrels will become extinct. Death by parapox is not pleasant - see my photograph [right]. This is what grey squirrels do to red squirrels; they kill them slowly and painfully.
Ms Jo Kirkbride, Cumbria

Why should the native red squirrels be driven to extinction by these 'tree rats'?
Marty Johnson
I am a student studying HND Animal Care in Scotland. I think we should capture the grey squirrels humanely and release them back to where they originated from. This way we will not resolve it by trapping, poisoning or shooting of the grey squirrel. We should be doing more to protect our native red squirrel from becoming extinct altogether.
Student, Renfrew

Why should the native red squirrels be driven to extinction by these "tree rats"?
Marty Johnson, Washington

Grey squirrels are a PEST! They eat birds' eggs, dig up bulbs in our gardens, and ruin the tree bark. For every one red there are 66 greys! Another unwanted American import! Cull all the greys, I say, and then we can re-establish our natural red squirrel. I went to Brownsea Island this year just to see a few reds. A magical sight!
Gerry Daniels, Leighton Buzzard

Grey squirrels are nothing but rats with fluffy tails!
Alex, Hastings

As they are an illegal immigrant I feel they are fair game and they do look nice in the crosshairs of my co2 powered rifle. (You could ask me about the visit I had two weeks ago from the local constabulary.)
Robin Yates, Swindon

I am very sorry, but the grey squirrel needs controlling. Every year they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of baby song birds, they raid the nests and eat the young. So we now have fewer song birds in our gardens - this is how they threaten the red squirrel, not by competing for their food, but by EATING their young. The red is native to this country whilst the grey is an import. We should be more concerned about protecting our native flora and fauna.
Mike Roberts, London

It does more digging in my garden than I do!
Sue Young
I have no desire to kill all grey squirrels. However, where reds still hold on the grey must be stopped from encroaching on this territory. Greys can live anywhere, reds can only live in very specialised areas. Greys breed fast, reds breed slowly. Added to this greys carry, but do not get ill from, squirrel pox, but this disease is deadly to reds. In parks greys are a welcome sight, even in some gardens - but they can destroy your bird feeders. The countryside greys cause different problems - though they mostly eat nuts they are partial to bird eggs and even young chicks, which can affect both gamekeepers and rare bird species. Greys aren't all bad... but they certainly aren't complete innocents either!
Vicky Payne, East Sussex

I am a staunch environmentalist and ecologist, who has a looked at the grey squirrel problem in a scientific and dispassionate manner for many years, and there is no doubt that this animal SHOULD be culled. If people openly fed brown rats in the same way that grey squirrels are being helped to proliferate (by the cuddly animal brigade) there would be an outcry. Your "support" of the grey squirrel is also based upon ignorance and emotion - for example, in our garden alone grey squirrels are responsible for (a) killing/severely damaging trees by stripping them of bark (b) killing and eating fledgling birds or eating birds' eggs (c) eating bird food and damaging bird feeders (d) eating nuts, fruit and vegetable produce - hardly endearing qualities. Whilst in a nearby every line of sight ends on a grey squirrel, a population explosion fuelled by public feeding.
Mike Vickers, Retford

They should be controlled so that our native species, the red squirrel, can make a comeback
Scott Mossop
Please, please tell me how to get my grey squirrels out of my garden. I have just finished planting out the bulbs (on a cold and miserable day) and next morning total chaos!
Stan Jacobs

They should be controlled so that our native species, the red squirrel, can make a comeback.
Scott Mossop, Newcastle

I have to add my voice to the call to cull grey squirrels. I have a very small garden and have tried to grow some vegetables - the squirrel eats them ALL before I can! Every time I plant something, the pest just digs it up and then leaves the plant to die. It has killed my rhubarb this way! It has dug into the masonry in my wall, displaced a brick and got inside my loft and torn up all the insulation. I can see it nesting at the moment, running back and forth with leaves, etc. It's not just vegetables! It dug up my new hosta and left it to die. It digs up all my bulbs. It digs up every new plant I put in. It does more digging in my garden than I do! It is totally destructive and I only have ONE squirrel!!! I am not asking for much. I just want to grow a few things. ONE squirrel is now my worst gardening nightmare and I would love to get rid of it.
Sue Young, London

If you look at the small print on your household insurance you are no longer covered for damage caused by grey squirrels
Frederick Agombar
Grey squirrels are a menace and should be classed as vermin. They destroy birds' eggs, are affecting the bird population and are destructive in our gardens; even the local cats avoid them. Our local Council are not interested in carrying out a cull, probably because of causing an unfavourable reaction from misguided people who think of them as fluffy and cute.
Barrie Shore, Hessle

I used to live in an old railway station. Grey squirrels ate through the wooden barge boards and got access to the loft. In the loft were the heads of many birds such as blue and great tits. They are very destructive, they eat through electric cables, water pipes, etc. If you look at the small print on your household insurance you are no longer covered for damage caused by grey squirrels. Many imports from America in this country have caused natural species to decline. I know a lady who has a shotgun and shoots them in her garden. Tree rats would be an apt description of them.
Frederick Agombar, Thorpe St.Andrew

These creatures are an absolute menace in the countryside
R Hall
Sadly, the grey is a little vandal (the red is as well, but its numbers have been reduced so much as to make it unlikely to do much harm). It has done tremendous damage in Cape Town suburbs too and it doesn't really have a predator here to keep it under control. We may also have another American animal establishing here too, and that is the racoon. This will cause even more damage
Chris Moiser, Plymouth

These creatures are an absolute menace in the countryside. Apart from their raids on my nut trees and fruit trees they are killing many trees in this part of the country by stripping bark from them. Being an alien species they appear to have no natural predators. My view is that they should be reduced in number as much as possible, if not exterminated completely.
R Hall, Market Drayton

I've just finished walking the Pennine Way which was 17 days of rain, wind, mist and pain. The biggest highlight was in the village of Dufton, seeing a red squirrel for the first time in my life. We must do something to stop the loss of these lovely native creatures. If that means culling some of the greys then so be it.
Dave Denness, Stamford

Am I allowed to poke my air rifle out of my window and take a pop at marauding squirrels that terrorise my tiny suburban garden? Is there a squirrel-firearms lawyer in the house!? Please publish; I may be about to break the law.
DB, London




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