The population of red squirrels in Europe is in a decline due to several factors, including the proliferation of the grey squirrel species across EU forests. Although France strongly protects its red squirrel wildlife, the country fears that grey squirrels will soon reach the country’s forests as the nuisance pests have already invaded forests in Switzerland.
Why is France Anxious about the Arrival of Grey Squirrels in Its Forests?
The grey species which are supposed to be native to the U.S.have become an international wildlife nuisance. Grey squirrels spread throughout Europe ever since several of the species were hauled to Italy during the 60’s as a form of novelty. However, the lot quickly populated and spread across many European forests, and subsequently created chaos to many of the continent’s wildlife communities. In fact in England, the grey squirrels were responsible for wiping out the red squirrels, one of Britain’s most beloved wildlife species.
Grey squirrels are known carriers of the parapox, a virus that is deadly for the red squirrels; but does not affect the greys at all. Furthermore, since grey squirrels are bigger compared to the reds, they consume anything and every food available in forests; often leaving nothing for smaller animals including the red squirrel species. The grey squirrels have been observed to use their size as an advantage, inclined to snatch and run off with whatever food gathered as stash by red squirrels.
About France’s Red Squirrels
The French people consider the red squirrels delightful creatures who rarely appear in urban environments. After all, France has a lot of dense forests to offer as perfect habitats to the small animals. France even constructed rope bridges specifically for squirrels and smaller animals, to help them cross roads safely. The squirrel bridges help prevent vehicular accidents and at the same time, protect the animals from getting roadkilled. Currently, there are two squirrel bridges located in La Rochelle, in Parc d’Orbigny and Parc Franck-Delmas .
However, these animals do not hibernate during winter, relying mostly on their large bushy tails to keep them warm while confined in their nests. As climate change has brought in harsher winters and freezing temperatures, about three-fourths of baby squirrels born in forests are unable to survive the unusually cold weather that has been taking place in Europe.
How the U.S. Manages and Controls Gray Squirrel Populations
Due to their abundance in the U.S., wildlife control agencies in the country include grey squirrels among the game species that can be hunted down and killed by traditional game hunters. Still, there are laws that must be observed with regard to grey squirrel removal and extermination. In Alabama, it is illegal to shoot down grey squirrels wandering withIn the city limits.
Generally most state laws allow grey squirrel extermination but only by using humane lethal traps or by way of euthanasia. Squirrels that have been captured live may not be quickly released in other locations due to the threats they pose to the smaller animals inhabiting an area. In Texas, professional wildlife removal technicians called upon by homeowners faced with squirrel invasion problems are required to first call the local Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Squirrel removal companies can euthanize the captured animals only after getting clearance from the local wildlife department, which determines if there are suitable locations in which to release the animals. The need to control the population of nuisance squirrels is due to the fact that in recent years, they have been invading homes; gnawing on wood works, electrical cables and insulations.
Nonetheless, even if grey squirrels are considered as nuisance forest creatures, U.S. laws still consider the grey species still valuable to forest ecosystems. Mainly because they also help in the reforestation of forests by scattering seeds across different natural environments.