A contraceptive against the proliferation of gray squirrels

A contraceptive against the proliferation of gray squirrels


British scientists plan to use a contraceptive for gray squirrels to reduce the number of these rodents whose proliferation threatens the very existence of the national species, red.

The animal, imported from North America at the end of the 19th century to populate large estates, has gradually taken over from its English cousin and also threatens several species of trees.< /p>

As part of a government scheme, scientists plan to administer an oral contraceptive, in their food, to gray squirrels. The project, tested in the north of England and Wales, proved to be rather conclusive.

Some 70% of gray squirrels ate what was in small boxes placed in their natural habitat and designed in such a way that other animals could not access them. The idea now is to insert a contraceptive into these boxes in addition to food.

For Gideon Henderson, scientific adviser to the Ministry of the Environment, this contraceptive device, which is less aggressive and more effective than campaigns or poisoning campaigns, is promising.

“It will help red squirrels (…) to return to their natural habitats while protecting British forests and increasing biodiversity”, he assured.

“Without effective management, the red squirrels could disappear from certain parts of the United Kingdom”, points out Vanessa Fawcett, of the association The Red Squirrel Survival Trust.

For the moment, no contraceptives have been used in the trials, but according to scientists, it will be effective in both males and females.

The population of gray squirrels is estimated at 2.7 million in the UK, a number that is constantly increasing. Conversely, the country has only 140,000 red squirrels left, the majority in Scotland.

Flimsier, red squirrels also need more space per individual and are threatened by smallpox. squirrel brought by the greys, who are immune.

The gray squirrels also threaten the health and survival of young trees, as they strip bark which weakens them and causes them to die.