Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 08:15 UK

Demand growing for squirrel pie

Grey squirrel
The grey squirrel has forced the red out of many areas of England

A pest controller who has already helped to cull more than 22,000 grey squirrels in the North East is moving south to feed demand for squirrel pie.

Paul Parker, 45, from Newcastle, is part of a conservation group trying to rid areas of grey squirrels and preserve native reds.

Now he says demand for greys from top chefs means he needs to expand.

He is working with landowners in the south of England to maintain supplies of squirrels for restaurants.

The father of three is a founder of the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership (RSPP), which says trapping and shooting greys is the only way to save native reds from extinction.

His method has been so successful grey squirrels have been eradicated in many parts of Northumberland and the reds have returned.

In the past 18 months, the group have caught 22,622 using a network of spring-loaded boxes.

Paul parker and grey squirrel
Mr Parker uses spring loaded boxes to catch grey squirrels

Mr Parker said: "I cannot personally get enough of these grey squirrels, people are eating them.

"If I was getting 100, they would take 100 each and every day, the demand is so high. They are sold as soon as they hit the counter.

"They are going to top restaurants, butchers, the working man. They are a delicacy.

"Two years ago I was catching up to 1,000 a month and slowly it has just dwindled down to a small handful a day."

The RSPP was formed in 2006 by Mr Parker and Rupert Mitford, the 6th Baron Redesdale.

It relies on a 900-strong army of volunteers including game wardens, families, farmers and pensioners to help stop the spread of the greys.

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