Monday, 15 October 2007

The Grey Squirrel Menace

That may sound like an exaggeration, but in reality grey squirrels, introduced into the UK from the USA in the 19th and early 20th centuries, are progressively eliminating our native red squirrels, and if we don’t do something drastic, reds will be effectively extinct in the UK in the forseeable future. I know they are darling little bouncy bundles of fluff and fun, but realistically they are a menace that is wiping out significant parts of our native wildlife.

Greys are bigger than reds, can live in a wider variety of habitats and eat a wider range of foods, including immature nuts which the reds would leave until later, so they out-compete the reds, leaving them with less to eat. In addition, they spread the squirrel parapox virus, to which they are immune, but which kills red squirrels.

According to the UK Red Squirrel Group the two species can exist side by side for up to 20 years before the reds finally disappear, but disappear they will.

As if that wasn’t enough, grey squirrels also eat the eggs and young of many of our native songbirds, already in alarming decline.

Recently the Forestry Commission proposed a plan to make grey squirrels infertile, and there are numerous other plans to control the greys, all of which I urge you to support.

I also strongly recommend eating grey squirrels, not only to help control them but also because they are completely delicious! The local farm shop where I buy much of my meat and game, has told me they can get me grey squirrels in much the same way they supply me with muntjac deer. In the latter case, I get a clean, whole carcase, weighing about 6 to 9 kilos which costs me £4 a kilo, and which I need to dismember myself. The bit I find hard, skinning and gutting, has already been done for me. I just cut it up and stick it in the freezer.

An adult squirrel at this time of year I would expect to weigh 250 to 350 grams. Since that includes bones, I’d say it would feed one. I have no idea what he’s going to charge me, but I’ve asked for four in the first instance. I’ll keep you posted!

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to cook them. The flesh tastes somewhere between chicken and rabbit, so I imagine I could do Squirrel Nutkin au vin (yes, I know Squirrel Nutkin was a red, I’m just trying to be clever). We did barbecue one in the early summer, having marinated it in soy sauce and 5-spice, and it was absolutely delicious, but it’s October now, so past barbie time. We’ll definitely be working on the idea, provided the supplier really does come up with the goods.

And if you can’t bring yourself to eat them, please at least support an organisation that’s working to control them. You’ll be helping prevent the extinction of red squirrels and the decimation of our native songbirds, and that’s got to be a good thing.


ArcticFox said...

Those effing greys!!

Did you know, that if you manage to trap one by accident (say, in a humane rat trap) it is actually ILLEGAL to release it back into the wild!!

I've said it before... death to the greys, but I wouldn't eat 'em!!

Perhaps we could start a fur revival of wearing mink and squirrel in order to erradicate them from our shores?? - Oh no, wait, that'd mean people would farm 'em and the silly animal rights idiots would release hundreds of mink into the wild every year.... is this an urban myth??


Rob Clack said...

Animal rights. God, that's a depressing thought. Witless idiocy spiked with malice. I was having quite a nice day until then.