Sir, I don’t think eating our way through the squirrel problem was Sir Harry Studholme’s first choice of method (Britons should EAT grey squirrels to keep population down and stop them killing trees, says Forestry Commission boss, December 4). He mentioned pine martens as a possible biological control; the Forestry Commission has also invested in research on fertility control for squirrels. If those options fail, we are left with control by trapping and shooting, which is expensive. Some of the cost of control might be recouped by selling squirrels as food rather than simply throwing them away. Nice idea, how to be green without going vegetarian! I don’t personally believe the nation’s hunger for squirrel meat will drive squirrel numbers down, but it might help the economics.
About half of the UK’s woodland is less than 40 years old and therefore vulnerable to grey squirrel damage. If we plant a lot more trees soon to save the planet, that will mean even more vulnerable trees. Planting and caring for trees costs money, much of which is taxpayers’ money. So, it’s in everyone’s interests to grow healthy trees that eventually produce nice timber. That would also help reduce imports of timber (and tree diseases) from other countries, but it can’t be done without controlling grey squirrels.
Dr Jonathan Reynolds
Head of predation control studies at GWCT