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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK

UK: Wales

Criticism of £1-a-tail squirrels bounty

Red squirrel populations are under pressure from their grey cousins

A Welsh wildlife trust has distanced itself from a conservation organisation's plan to pay a bounty for people to kill grey squirrels.

The BBC's Stuart Robinson asks how serious the decline in the red squirrel has become
The red squirrels of Anglesey in north Wales are threatened by their grey cousins and the conservation group the Esme Kirby Trust has decided to revive bounties.

It is offering £1 per tail in an attempt to cut the grey squirrels' numbers.

However, the North Wales Wildlife Trust said it disagreed with the bounty plan.

Morgan Parry, of the trust, said they agreed that grey squirrel numbers needed to be cut, but that a bounty was not the best way.

"We are trying to work together with a lot of different organisations, including the Esme Kirby Trust. But we oppose the bounty quite strongly," he said.

"We are afraid people will kill, trap and shoot animals just for the money," he said.

It is thought the grey squirrels have reached Anglesey either by swimming across the Menai Strait or using the road bridge.

[ image: Greys have either swum the Menai Strait or used the bridge to reach Anglesey]
Greys have either swum the Menai Strait or used the bridge to reach Anglesey
The larger and tougher grey squirrels have a different digestive system to the red ones. This enables them to eat food before it is ripe enough for the red squirrels to eat.

Without a supply of food, the reds are forced to move on or starve.

The Esme Kirby Trust is part of a wider "Anglesey Red Squirrel Project" which plans to make Anglesey "red squirrel country" again.

There are plans to supply a trap for the subsidised sum of £7 which they claim is much cheaper than can be bought elsewhere.


There is also a plan for red squirrels to be re-introduced to Holy Island off Anglesey where they would be free from any predatory grey squirrels.

The grey squirrel bounty was first introduced in 1932 by the Forestry Committee and was set at 2.5p per tail.

It was halted when World War Two began but then resumed in the 1950s under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The system, though, was abandoned in 1957 because it was abused too much.

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