Why Was the Grey Squirrel Introduced to the UK?
So why was the grey squirrel introduced to the UK? Its history is a fascinating one and goes way beyond Victorians and Herbrand Russell. Read on to discover how they affected red squirrels. We’ll also cover the Victorians’ impact and disease. And finally, we’ll learn about Herbrand Russell. But why did the grey squirrel become so popular? We’ll look at some of the most fascinating facts about this little rodent.
The 11th Duke of Bedford, Herbrand Russell FRS, is credited with introducing the grey squirrel to the UK. The gentleman and animal conservationist gifted many grey squirrels to friends of friends and spread their populations across the country. While the theory of invasive species is not clear, it’s generally believed that Russell’s actions helped the grey squirrels to spread across the country. While it’s unclear what Russell actually did, the introduction of these squirrels is likely responsible for the current grey squirrel epidemic in London.
Herbrand Russell, a renowned conservationist, invited 35 organizations to form the Squirrel Accord, a clearinghouse for coordinating efforts to control grey squirrel populations and save red squirrels. While the Accord does not specify killing, it does stipulate that people should report sightings of grey squirrels. In fact, it was not until the 1990s that the RSPB announced its halt to the practice.
During the Victorian era, banker Thomas Brocklehurst introduced a pair of grey squirrels from America to Cheshire, where he released them. Little did Brocklehurst know that this release would spark a battle between the British and Americans, one hundred years after the American Revolution. Today, the population of grey squirrels in the UK is estimated at around 2.5 million. Read on to learn more about this invasive species and how it came to be in the UK.
In fact, new genetic research has shown that the grey squirrel is not as ‘hardy’ as once thought. Although humans helped the grey squirrel conquer the British Isles, recent research suggests that its population is not as resilient as it was believed. Genetic studies by Dr Lisa Signorile of the Zoological Society of London and Imperial College London revealed that different populations of grey squirrels still remain genetically distinct, allowing scientists to trace new populations to new areas.
In the UK, the disease of grey squirrels is an emerging problem. Although the disease has been introduced as an extinct species in the country, recent studies have found that this rodent is infected with SQPV. The disease is transmitted between individuals by direct contact, and a proportion of infected animals die within two weeks. The disease can also spread through environmental contamination at foci of space. Researchers have identified an area of the Scottish Borders where the disease has been detected in seropositive grey squirrels.
In the UK, the disease first appeared in Norfolk in 1980. The disease was first diagnosed in Red squirrels in 1900, and the first confirmed case occurred in Norfolk in 1980. Since then, it has spread to other British populations. The ‘epidemic virus’ has affected both species, and there is no vaccine. However, the disease does not pose a threat to humans, but it is important to remember to wash your hands after handling animals.
Their impact on red squirrels
The grey squirrel is a generalist feeder, which out-competes the native red squirrel in European forests. Its population has decreased significantly in the past 60 years; southern England, Scotland and parts of southern France are now completely devoid of red squirrels. While red squirrels are still common in northern England and Piedmont, their range has contracted in southern England and is shrinking rapidly in Italy. In Italy, the Scioattolo Grigio has already outcompeted the native Scioattolo Rosso.
The spread rate was 0.29 km/year, with 16 estimates ranging from 0.09 to 0.79 km/year. The standard deviation was 0.19 km/year. The point transects were effective in detecting the presence of squirrels, with subsequent observations revealing the same animals. Red squirrel densities were 21.7 and 32.2 individuals per hectare, while the density of grey squirrels was 1.6 and 0.7 individuals per hectare, respectively.
The primary method of controlling the grey squirrel is by poison, usually anticoagulant. This should be used only if the squirrels are unable to gain access to your building. Crushed wire netting and metal sheeting can block entrance points. However, you should not start proofing your building until the squirrels have been removed. For roof spaces, attach baffles to down pipes and cables. This method reduces squirrel access to the loft. The carcasses should be disposed of in a discreet manner.
Another method of controlling the grey squirrel population is to use gene drives. These are genetically modified males with a programmed gene that causes infertility in their female offspring. The gene drive spreads throughout the population as the males carry it. This method is more affordable than the use of contraceptives, and poses no risk of cross-contamination. Breeding season does not stop the grey squirrel population from increasing.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.