Our Friends from across the pond are looking for modern day Saint Patrick, but instead of chasing all the snakes out of Ireland. They want to remove the cheeky little gray squirrel from the UK.
Their plan involves Nutella and contraceptives. And if their jackie goes Robin Hood those little buggers are in barney.
According to Smithsonian.com, the Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, native to North America, was introduced to the British Isles about 140 years ago. Since then, they have become pests, digging up gardens and killing trees by chewing around their bases. They are also out competing native red squirrels for available habitat.
The grays have also introduced a devastating disease Parapoxvirus which they themselves are immune, but the reds are not. Red Squirrel populations have plummeted. In the 1950 a squirrel censes put their population at 3.5 million. Today that number sits around 150,000.
So British red squirrels are in dire straits, but they have a powerful ally. Turns out Prince Charles is nutty for the little buggers. He proposed that the little animal be recognized as the official mascot of the U.K. He even aspires to have one as a companion at his retreat in Scotland.
“I put nuts in the lobby and leave the door open and the red squirrels come up the steps into the house. Very often you get four or five running around inside the house, chasing each other to get at the nuts. My great ambition is to have one in the house, I hate to tell you. Sitting on the breakfast table and on my shoulder!”
So Charles along with Lord Kinnoull, chairman of the UK Squirrel Accord (Yes, that is a real group) came up with a plan. The agency hopes to soon begin experiments luring gray squirrels into special traps baited with globs of the chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella spiked with GonaCon, an oral contraceptive shown to be 90 percent effective in rats. The traps are designed to be too strong to allow red squirrels and other small mammals like dormice and voles to enter.
The program is still in the testing phase, but if the project works, it could reduce squirrel populations by 70 to 90 percent in four years. They remain optimistic. It took 18 years to eradicate gray squirrels from the Island of Anglesey off the coast of Wales. That island is now considered the first area of the nation to eradicate the gray squirrel, and the population of red squirrels has risen from just 40 in 1998 to around 700 today.
Personally, I think it would be more entertaining for them to hire a group of rednecks to thin out the squirrels. Teach them to make squirrel and dumpling. They could start serving them with their Earl Gray and crumpets.
To read the entire article from Smithsonian.com CLICK HERE