Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Peer Wants Grey Squirrels Collared; Novel Proposal to Protect Red Population

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Peer Wants Grey Squirrels Collared; Novel Proposal to Protect Red Population

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes Political Editor

PEERS in the House of Lords have been urged to help stop the spread of the grey squirrel across the North - by ditching their ermine for grey squirrel "vermin".

Northumberland's Lord Redesdale came up with the unusual solution to the growing threat of grey squirrels as he launched a new campaign to push the rodents back into Scotland and beyond the Tyne.

Rupert Mitford, the 6th Lord Redesdale, is famed for his forthright comments in the Lords. However, speaking to The Journal about the plague of grey squirrels in the North, he said: "If we're serious about reforming the House of Lords then we should perhaps also change the ermine to grey squirrel vermin."

It comes as the peer spearheads a new campaign to stop the advance of grey squirrels across the region, and to push the American cousin of the reds north of the border and back beyond the River Tyne.

The Red Squirrel Protection Partnership hopes to gather an army of volunteers who regularly report sightings of grey squirrels in areas traditionally known as red heartlands, and with the help of trained trappers, to humanely kill them.

"This is the last chance we have got to protect the reds. Wherever greys have turned up in areas where the reds were dominant all you will see now are greys. This literally is make or break time for the red squirrel," he said.

Northumberland has become the last major natural refuge for the red squirrel in England. However, with greys currently outnumbering their smaller cousins by 66-1, experts have warned reds could be on the brink of extinction within 20 years without radical intervention.

Lord Redesdale said the question of "management" was now critical, warning a cull was the only way of realistically controlling grey numbers.

"Other methods are not stopping the greys. …

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