Pest is pretty as a picture

Derek Pelling's picture of the grey squirrel in Oliffe Close, Aylesbury
Derek Pelling's picture of the grey squirrel in Oliffe Close, Aylesbury

Last week my colleague Derek Pelling chose a very pretty picture of a grey squirrel as his picture of the week.

He was driving in a rural area, spotted it and thought it would make a great picture. He was right of course, and thanks to his skill as a photographer he got a superb shot.

Farmers tend to take a different kind of shot when they spot a squirrel, and it’s not the kind that produces a pretty picture.

Grey squirrels, are considered to be pests and if one is captured, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that it must not be released, but must be humanely destroyed.

Grey squirrels were introduced to this country from America by the Victorians and very soon overwhelemd our native breed, the red squirrel. Now the tufty eared red, which has protected status, is extinct in large areas of the country, including here in Buckinghamshire.

If you want to see the red squirrel of folklore and children’s bedtime stories then you’d have a better chance inScotland, the Isle of Wight or Northumberland.

Violence between the red and grey is not a factor in the decline of our native breed, but the grey has greater fitness, is larger and stronger and better able to compete for the available food.

The greys also carry a disease which although it does not affect their health, will kill a red.

Greys also strip the bark from trees, steal feed left out for birds, nest in attics and cellars and are considered to be fire hazards due to their habit of gnawing electrical cables. So they may make a pretty picture, but they are also officially considered to be a pest.