21 December 2007
Some Revolutionary ideas
Not since the American Colonies cast off the reins of the British king has there been such a troubling struggle between those who dwell on both sides of the Pond.
This time, however, it is being fought on the British side of the Atlantic. And like the revolutionary entanglement written into the history of humans, the battle between America's eastern gray (grey) squirrel and the beloved red squirrels of the United Kingdom has led to much sadness and death.
Simply put, the greys are driving the reds out of their natural dwellings - and the greys, an introduced species hostile to the native reds, are taking over. Sadder still, these American grey colonists in the UK did not ask to be an introduced species but, like so many other flora and fauna that show up on foreign shores with problematic results, they were transported here, have taken root and spread. At the same time, the reds' food is being eaten by the greys, and the now-weakened population of reds in some areas are being destroyed by an outbreak of a particularly strong squirrel pox.
In Scotland, a census is taken to keep count of the beloved reds. Elsewhere in the UK preservationist efforts have sprung up to keep the red viable. Being sympathetic to the plights on both our shores, I have made contributions toward red squirrel preservation through the symbolic adoption of a red squirrel in the UK (I received a photograph of "Hazel," my adoptee, and I encourage others to contribute to this worthy cause, the Wildlife Trust, which looks after the squirrels on Brownsea Island).
The greys, meanwhile, are poisoned, shot and declared a menace. Here in the States there is only a government-proclaimed short season of "squirrel hunting" (although in my mind anything longer than a millisecond is too long a season). But in the UK, it is open season on greys all the time for reasons of preserving the native reds. Indeed, wildlife rehabilitators who choose to care for orphaned and injured greys do so in defiance of the law and at their own peril. (And they do, bless their hearts, seeing the greys as twice victimized).
Recently there was even a culinary solution proposed - put grey squirrels on Britain's menus. I cannot imagine an Eastern Grey Takeaway restaurant, squirrels 'n chips or even bangers, mash and bushytail - but the food gurus of the United Kingdom were obviously trying a creative solution.
Like the American Revolution, this is a struggle for independence too - one nation's attempt to become independent of the eastern grey. But please remember, this American colonist never asked to be there and is truly a victim in this scenario too. These are beings as charming, sentient and full of life and personality as their British cousins.
There has to be a better way to solve this though. America, Britain - please keep trying, and let the means this time be nonviolent.