It’s illegal in the UK for anyone to release grey squirrels into the wild from December 2019.
This means that wildlife rescue centres in England which previously took in, rehabilitated and released wild grey squirrels, will instead have to kill them, on both practical and ethical grounds.
The campaign against grey squirrels is justified by the UK government, which insists that grey squirrels threaten native wildlife and harm the economy.
The cost to UK forestry is estimated to be £10 million per year, including damage to timber caused by the grey squirrels habit of stripping bark from trees.
But that cost also includes money spent on controlling grey squirrels, and there is no link between how much is spent on controlling their numbers and reducing damage to trees.
So killing grey squirrels is not necessarily money well spent.
There are also glaring contradictions in what is considered invasive and what needs to be controlled.
There are 11 million pet cats in the UK, which kill about 27 million wild birds each year and around 92 million wild prey in total.
No game for wildlife
On an even greater scale, the game bird industry releases millions of non-native birds 35 million pheasants and six-and-a-half million red-legged partridges into the British countryside each year, to be shot for sport.
The total mass of pheasants released annually exceeds that of the entire breeding population of native birds.
Many of the UK’s native predators are killed to maximise the density of game birds for hunters to shoot.
Snares can be legally used to kill foxes and dogs can be legally used to flush foxes out of cover to be shot.
Compared to the 11 million domestic cats and more than 40 million non-native game birds, there are only an estimated 2.5 million grey squirrels living in the UK, and 700 are taken into captivity each year.
The environmental impact of releasing a handful of grey squirrels particularly in areas where red squirrels are absent is likely negligible.