A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not a grey area.....

A friend of mine has this morning e-mailed me with some very bad news. The introduced American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has just arrived on his estate, which, up to now, has been a refuge for our native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). I remember with enormous pleasure watching the red squirrels there chuntering away rather crossly, in true Squirrel Nutkin fashion, as we dared to walk by their trees - "And to this day if you meet Nutkin up a tree and ask him a riddle, he will throw sticks at you and stamp his feet and scold, and shout - 'C u c k - cuck-cuck-cur-r-r cuck-k-k!'"

The spread of the introduced grey squirrel in Britain is a national disaster. It carries the deadly squirrel pox virus, which mercilessly kills the native red in the most horrible fashion. In some habitats, the grey also outcompetes the smaller native red, and it destroys both trees, as in the Forest of Dean, and gardens.

The failure of national and local authorities to face up to this ecological calamity reflects political cowardice in the face of popular sentimentality and the 'Happy Bunny' lobby. While it is probably no longer an option to control the grey squirrel in our urban parks, it is now vital that the last refuges of our native reds are defended vigorously by the targeted removal of the grey.

Where is the kindness in exposing our native red squirrels to skin ulcers, lesions and scabs, with swelling and discharge around the eyes, mouth, feet and genitals?

Ecology often demands hard political decisions and action.

See also my little essay: 'The Tale of the Hebridean Hedgehogs', at A Parliament of Things (scroll down to Essay 3).

Philip, furious that, while we witter on about the mythical 'dangers' of things like GM crops, introduced species are allowed to run amok with such devastating results. Time for a coffee, and a calming listen to Mozart's masterly Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K364 (320d). That second movement Andante always does the trick. A real chill out.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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