Report from George Markie.
Small and furry, they may look cute with their long bushy tails but they are a menace that has spread through much of Britain and they now seem intent on invading Dundee, writes Andrew Argo.
More sightings of grey squirrels have been reported in gardens in the outskirts of the city - most recently in Broughty Ferry and Gowrie Park. They have been prevented from settling in Dundee's parks to protect the increasingly rare red squirrels there, but their appearance in domestic gardens - the Broughty Ferry man noticed one sitting proudly at the top of a tree in his garden this week - suggests the battle to keep grey squirrels under control is becoming more difficult.
Aileen Whitelaw of the wildlife centre at Camperdown Park, said today, "We have been receiving more sightings of grey squirrels in and around Dundee and it's a shame.
"The Dundee area was out-of-bounds to them for a long time because of the River Tay. We knew they were in Fife but they weren't able to get over to this side of the river.
"We think that in time they have spread round to Perth and have come along the Carse of Gowrie to reach Dundee.
"We are protecting the red squirrels in Camperdown Park and Templeton Wood by eradicating any grey squirrels that try to settle there, but it's a lot more difficult for us to do anything about grey squirrels cropping up in and around Dundee."
Grey squirrels, weighing up to 500 grammes and measuring 25 centimetres with a tail as long again, were native of North America and were introduced to Britain nearly 200 years ago.
Records show the first pair were released from captivity in England in 1876, when they were thought to be harmless additions to wildlife.
More pairs followed, and they have now spread to most of the forested areas of Britain - and to towns and cities. They are now much more common than British native red squirrels, whose existence has come under threat.
Their prevalence is mainly due to them breeding twice as quickly and more productively than red squirrels and also being able to feed more effectively. They have two litters a year while red squirrels have one, and they produce up to seven young each time.
Their proliferation has made them a menace. They destroy woodland by chewing the bark off young trees to reach the fleshy green wood underneath.
They can also cause damage in gardens by feeding on vegetables and digging up plants and bulbs, and digging holes in lawns. They often raid nests of birds to steal eggs.
They enter the roof space of buildings by climbing or jumping from nearby trees. Once inside they are attracted by loft insulation material, using it to build warm and comfortable nests.
They gnaw at woodwork, plastic piping and electric wiring which can lead to floods and fires. Their droppings contaminate water tanks.
Experts say the best way to keep grey squirrels from a house is to ensure there are no openings in the roof space or loose woodwork.
If they are in a loft, they can be poisoned by a special contractor, but care must be taken to remove the bodies because they can crawl off to die in inaccessible corners and create problems with flies or odours. They can also be combated by removing food sources, like bird tables, from gardens, or fitting the tables with squirrel-proof protection.
© Dundee Evening Telegraph, 12 th August 2003
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