Feb 7 2013 by Tom Duffy, Ormskirk Advertiser
A WEST Lancashire farmer has said that grey squirrels now pose a serious threat to the countryside.
James Woods, of Gerard Hall, on Prescot Road, Aughton, has told the Advertiser that grey squirrels inflict millions of pounds of damage to the countryside each year.
James, who is also a rural practice chartered surveyor for Frank Marshall and Co, in Wigan, said that the greys pose a much broader threat to the environment than just the squirrel pox virus.
He said: “‘Aah, aren't they pretty?’ was a phrase I heard on the golf course recently as people watched grey squirrels.
“Their reaction is understandable. Grey squirrels are pretty, but they would be far prettier if they were confirmed to North America where they came from in the first place. When they were first introduced by misguided animal lovers in 1876 the grey squirrel was thought to be a welcome addition to British farms, as was the case with the north American mink.
“Now the penny has dropped for most people that these animals threaten our native wildlife.
“The grey squirrel, known as the tree rat by many of my fellow country friends, is a huge threat to our indigenous red squirrel.
“Nearly every town and park in England has resident grey squirrels and they are very aggressive to the smaller red.
“In addition the grey is an eater of birds eggs and the woodland invasion of them is a reason why birds such as nightingales are declining.
“They eat songbirds’ eggs, growing trees and shrubs, causing millions of pounds of damage.
“The grey squirrel carry a disease called squirrel pox virus. It is contagious and fatal to the reds.
“A lot of hard work is spent on saving Britain's last red squirrels, once a common sight in Formby's reserve but less so at the moment.
“At the very least I would ask that people don't feed them and use protective or anti-squirrel bird feeders in their gardens. The situation is desperate. Save the red squirrel.”
Last year Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside said that red squirrels had “bounced back” after fears their numbers were in a critical state following a pox epidemic.
The red squirrel population in the Sefton coast pinewoods took a nosedive in 2008 after a squirrel pox outbreak on Ainsdale National Nature Reserve and the National Trust property at Formby.
But the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside said that the numbers are now back to 84% of autumn 2002 numbers.
The report formed part of a part of a wider project mapping squirrels across the north of England.