Grey squirrels in North Yorkshire are being given contraceptives in their food in a bid to control their population. The move is being made in Wensleydale to help the red squirrels which live there thrive. The red squirrel has been in severe decline in the UK as the greys, which are not a native species, increase. It is believed that greys act as carriers of squirrel pox – which kills reds.
Great, but has anyone in charge of this project given any thought of how the chemicals used in the contraceptive once ingested by the Grey Squirrel will then affect raptors like the Goshawk? As we know the Goshawk regularly predates grey squirrels, also feeding them to their offspring in the nest? This is perhaps a step too far, how can this be justified if the use of these contraceptives then proves down the line to be detrimental to the well-being of protected species like the Goshawk, or for that matter other raptor species like the Buzzard and Red Kite? Research has shown Goshawks predate between 75% to 95% grey Squirrel.
We strongly suggest before this ill thought out trial proceeds, more research and consideration is given into the wider consequences upon other forms of wildlife, in particular birds of prey. Perhaps instead of raising our concerns here, both Natural England and RSPB should be raising this issue with appropriate agencies?
This reminds us of what has been taking place of red grouse moors, where gamekeepers are using chemicals to control a harmful parasite worm (trichostrungylus Pergracilus), which can harm the gut of the grouse. We are advised there are no controls on the use of chemicals to treat this infestation which are mixed with grit placed in trays strategically spaced across the moors. The grit mixed with chemicals are then eaten by the grouse to help digest their food, young heather shoots.
Has anyone given any real thought to how these chemicals go on to affect the health of people who eat red grouse?