Grey squirrel contraceptives could be key in battle to save red squirrels

Grey squirrels have been detrimental to the population of red squirrels.

CONTRACEPTIVES for grey squirrels is the latest method to help control their numbers in order to save endangered native red squirrels.

Steve Barrett, a North East Red Squirrels (NeRS) Trustee told SR News: “We have always hoped for a contraceptive developed for grey squirrels.”

Grey squirrels are an invasive species which often carry a deadly disease for the UK’s red squirrel.

Mike Denbury, Red Squirrel Officer for Northumberland said: “Squirrel Pox is lethal and can cause red squirrels to die within a couple of weeks”.

Grey squirrels can also out-compete reds for food.

Other solutions to keep grey squirrels in check include the University of Edinburgh’s research into changing the genes of grey squirrels to produce only male offspring.

This means that the grey squirrels can’t reproduce and add to their numbers, allowing populations to slowly decline.

The 2019 Annual Monitoring Survey of Red Squirrels found that 43.4% of the 2290 woodlands and gardens across seven northern counties, including the North East were home to red squirrels.

However in Northumberland, only 25.7% of sites had reds.

It is hoped that by reducing the number of grey squirrels, it can allow red squirrel populations to survive.

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