The RSPCA has attacked the culling of grey squirrels to encourage the breeding of the endangered red as “ethically dubious” and unlikely to be effective.

A DEFRA funded group calling itself the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership says it has already trapped and shot 15,000 grey squirrels in Northumberland, or .3% out of a national total of up to five million, and aims to have the county free of all greys by next year.

However Rob Atkinson, the head of wildlife science at the RSPCA comments: “It’s ethically dubious killing one species for the sake of another”. And the RSPCA also urges the investigation of forms of control other than killing.

This however is unlikely to be a popular option for the trappers who have received £150,000, or £10 a squirrel for killing them, as well as further income from the sale of the meat.

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