Ministerial support for work on controlling grey squirrel

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has welcomed the support of the Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith, on the work being undertaken by the UK Squirrel Accord (UKSA) to control grey squirrel populations.

As an executive board member of the UKSA, BASC has played an active role in the conservation project to add oral contraception to the range of management tools, such as humane lethal control, used in the fight against grey squirrels.

Invasive grey squirrels are not only a direct threat to our native red squirrels, via the transmission of a deadly squirrel pox virus, but threaten the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change by damaging new woodland planting and regeneration.

Ian Danby, BASC’s head of biodiversity, said: “Oral contraception offers us a new opportunity to reduce grey squirrel numbers in woodland areas where culling is less suitable and even inappropriate. It could potentially reduce grey squirrel populations in a more cost and time-effective way than other methods such as trapping.”

BASC has worked in partnership with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to test how to effectively administer an oral contraceptive to grey squirrels in woodlands using a network of volunteers instead of paid staff.

Ian Danby added: “The UK Squirrel Accord is getting closer to adding a further tool to those already available in order to minimise the negative impact of grey squirrels. This is good news for gamekeepers and shooters who form the backbone of voluntary grey squirrel schemes to protect nature.”