The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.
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FOR THE GREY SQUIRREL...
We have two grey squirrels who are recent regular visitors to our garden and we get great pleasure watching them and the many birds that come too. You only have to put out nuts and seeds on a regular basis - it doesn't take the creatures long to work out the best gardens. Reds are cute, but they're not as adaptable as greys. Hands off the greys - the reds are just going to have to toughen up.
If people are supporting the culling of grey squirrels because they kill nesting birds, do they equally support the culling of the domestic cat, a far greater killer of small mammals and birds? - "Glad to be grey!"
Neil Cooper, London
Grey squirrels liven up parks, visit the garden, play round the bottoms of trees and are generally top quality, entertaining and interesting wildlife. Red squirrels hide in remote woodland and might as well already be extinct for all any of us get to see of them.
Why is the knee-jerk reaction to any wildlife problem a policy of culling the offending creatures? After the BSE outbreak badgers became the scapegoats. It is unacceptable to think we can solve natural problems by exterminating anything which is not deemed to be beneficial to rural life.
There are two grey squirrels that live around my house. It would be a less interesting place to live if they weren't there. How would anyone propose to cull them anyway? They're quick, alert and suspicious, and I'd bet that people with their "own" grey squirrels wouldn't rat them out for the reds.
Red squirrels have been said to be endangered since I was a child. I've never seen one, but have loved "Little Grey Squirrel" since reading Alison Uttley in my long-ago infancy. The cheeky, friendly squirrels of Regent's Park come to a whistle, and, as many have said, provide superb entertainment. We need some facts - would the parks of London be full of red squirrels if there were no grey ones?
Judith Kramer, London
Ever thought of taking whatever genes make the greys so resilient and splicing them into the red squirrel? It sounds like the reason the reds are getting pushed back is because they are inferior. Well, that's a problem that can be solved. This is one option that doesn't require killing or going through the trouble of rounding up the greys for a humane deportation.
We just can't help ourselves, can we? When will everyone finally accept that continuing to tinker with the ecosystem is doing more harm than good? Yes, greys might be damaging other species, but on the other hand at some point humans will have to accept the best thing to do is step back, and stop trying to engineer absolutely everything. Culling them is, in many ways, just as bad as introducing them in the first place!
Victoria Finney, Brighton
Grey squirrels have been demonised. They are wonderful little characters and deserve to live and not be slaughtered, (sorry, the polite word is "culled"). They are no more a so-called pest than any other living thing. Why is it that Man just wants to kill anything he/she doesn't approve of?
C Budd, Tyne & Wear
I have a grey squirrel, nicknamed Arthur by my housemate who frequently comes into out garden to forage for food, and he is no pest. Arthur is now part of the landscape in our garden, whenever we look out you can be sure to see him looking back at you!
Andrew Coroneo, Birmingham
Leave the grey squirrels alone - I can't help wondering if the backlash against them would be the same if they hadn't been introduced from the USA. What happened to our friends across the pond? We are fast becoming an anti-American nation.
We encourage and derive a great deal of amusement from the resourceful grey squirrels who play with each other in our garden, figuring out ingenious ways of helping themselves to the birds' peanuts which we have hanging outside our patio door. No way they should be culled.
Tony and Sammy Burleton, Wembley
They are cutes things, and a joy to life. They bring a smile to my face on my saddest days. I could stand and watch them for hours. Nevertheless, grey squirrels too are a creation of God, and we should have love and care for them.
RD, Rolla, MO
I couldn't resist reacting on this issue! It's true, in many places the native fauna is suffering seriously due to accidental or intentional introduction of exotic animals, but still I feel culling is a cruel strategy to control their population! In most cases the human being is the main culprit, we have destroyed the habitat through pollution, deforestation, etc. Why are we so partial about us? Are we going to punish ourselves? All of us should develop a sense of responsibility and harmony towards our Mother Nature. Live and let them live!
Shubhada, Fukuoka, Japan
I love the grey squirrels - they have as much right to be in our trees, gardens and countryside as any other animal. Leave them alone.
It's wonderful to see squirrels. The grey ones I constantly meet in the park always appear to be very industrious. Is it me or are there always more squirrels in the autumn/winter, particularly near Christmas, and shouldn't they be hibernating?!
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I can hardly believe the fatuous, sentimental nonsense displayed by many of your correspondents regarding the grey squirrel. At the end of our garden we are fortunate in having a large oak tree which provides habitats for birds, moths, beetles, etc - and grey squirrels. The latter do an incredible amount of damage to the tree itself, stripping off bark and biting off vast quantities of fully leaved young branches. In addition, these wretched creatures carry off eggs and fledglings, dig up expensive bulbs and ruin them by taking a single bite and then abandoning them on the surface, and eat any food left out for the birds. I am amazed that some people actually encourage grey squirrels by feeding them, and hope very much that a cull can take place.
David Hawthorn, St Albans
So far I can only see one comment from Cumbria. The rest are from the south where there are no reds so this is hardly fair. I have no qualms in telling you I am involved with grey control although I do not shoot. Greys are controlled by trained marksmen and killed humanely. Most, I might add, are volunteers who do it for the love of the red squirrel. We are proud of our red squirrels in Cumbria and wish to keep them here for generations to come. Grey squirrels need to be controlled and I urge everyone to report them in areas where reds are still present. If the grey squirrel supporters had reds in their gardens I think they would more sympathetic and understand what we do and why we do it.
Susan Southworth, Cumbria
It is important to preserve the red squirrel. If this means getting rid of some of the grey squirrels it must be done sensitively and humanely. They are sentient creatures that deserve our respect, and it is not their fault they were introduced to this country.
Lindsay Talbot, Bradford
They should be controlled, for if they are not, now, then it will become much more of a problem to do so later. One has recently started making holes in our garden, being the first time we have seen it, and this is just the beginning. I vote for a cull of grey squirrels.
In my garden, there are numerous grey squirrels. They are controlled by my shotgun, my brother's air rifle and our two border terriers. The "tree rats", as they are appropriately nicknamed, are one of the principal causes of damage to bulbs, flowers and trees. They also steal all the bird nuts in the holders outside on our terrace. There should really be either a cull in all of Britain or a more humane solution reached. Let's bring back our native red squirrel - part of our heritage!
Ben A, Norfolk
I think we should do all we can to protect indigenous species like the red squirrels lest they end up going the same way as lynx, wolves, beavers and bears. There's no doubt grey squirrels push reds out of their territory and are the biggest factor in their decline. With all this in mind, I think it's right to go ahead with a cull. At the end of the day, biodiversity is more important than any misplaced notion of animal rights, otherwise there will simply come a day when its too late and the last of the reds have gone from the British Isles.
I am in fact a red squirrel conservation officer and have lived and worked in the country all my life. The fact is grey squirrels need to be controlled - they are a pest and are taking over. I have seen first hand what happens to red squirrels when they catch the pox virus from the greys and believe me it is not nice. Cumbria has pockets of red squirrels but due to the fact that the grey is moving into these areas they are declining fast. Action needs to be taken now before it is too late.
Jerry Moss, Penrith Cumbria
One grey squirrel has killed just about every plant in my garden and dug up my entire lawn to use as its larder. It is so tame that no amount of screaming and running at it will scare it off. It just looks at you as if to say "yeah? C'mon then, I dare you!". It is, unfortunately, also the only thing in my garden that my cats will not kill, and there are no deterrents on the market - you can scare away cats, foxes, whatever, but squirrels are considered cute and fluffy and to be encouraged. Destroy the evil things now!
J Fischer, London
Grey squirrels were introduced from North America in the 1870s and are almost certainly responsible for the demise of our native red squirrels across most of the UK. In the remaining red squirrel strongholds, like Cumbria, "control", a euphemistic term for culling, of grey squirrels is an essential part of red squirrel conservation strategy. Grey squirrels are larger than reds and out-compete reds for food. Greys are also carriers of the squirrel pox virus which is fatal to reds. Red Alert North West has been working since 1993 to conserve native red squirrels in their natural habitat.
David Hill, Cumbria
We do not want grey squirrels here. We are trying to save our reds. I think I can speak for many Cumbrians. Why should we have to put up with the horrible creatures and lose our song birds, trees and most of all NATIVE reds? Lets get rid of them now before it's too late.
Susan Southworth, Cockermouth
I would love to say that the "furry, cute" grey was naturalised in this country and a fine candidate for being given an award for exploiting dumb humans in urban parks! BUT it has no natural predators to keep its numbers in check because of humans, it carries disease which only the reds die from and destroys plantations paid for by tax payers money!
There is hardly any question that the grey squirrel is a charming city companion, a friend to talk to and feed in the lunch break away from the workplace. But there is little doubt that the aggressive North American visitor pushed out the beautiful red squirrel to almost extinction, to the North of England, Scotland and, I believe still, the Isle of Wight. Like most other wildlife that humans find a nuisance for one reason or another their numbers can be reasonably easily reduced, even to the point of disappearance, not by the cruelty of poison or trap or gun, but by baiting food put out for them containing a birth control chemical. Let's see the beautiful red squirrel make a comeback with our help. Our busy lives will be all the more fulfilled for it.
Ray Wright, Peterborough
In the 1950s and 60s, the government gave a bounty of five shillings a tail for grey squirrels. If it was right then, why not now?
Ian Gowans, London
They are a pet in our gardens. They dig up bulbs, chase away wild birds, eat food left for birds, are generally very pretty to look at but never the less a pest!
P Cravitz, Bournemouth
Our garden is overrun with grey squirrels; we never harvest a single walnut from our huge tree because the squirrels have picked them all. We fight an endless war in trying to feed our bird population while the squirrels devise a way to benefit from all the bird feeders. The only good squirrel is a dead one - and they make quite a tasty meal if you casserole them!
A Stoneham, Goring on Thames
I had grey squirrels in my attic and what a mess they made, plus keeping me awake half the night. They threw most of the insulation out onto the conservatory and even chewed through cables. They are a menace and should be eradicated.
Jed Tinsel, Chester
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