SIR, — I read with little surprise the letter from Sally of Ponteland Red Squirrels ('Herald', March 13) who yet again forcefully states fiction as fact, hoping that the lack of scientific origin will go un-noticed.
It is correct that grey squirrels can carry squirrelpox virus, but so also can reds. Given the much closer proximity of reds to other reds, it is likely that they will spread the disease within the population far faster than greys ever could. However, given how "deadly" Sally believes this disease is, it is rather strange that there aren't red squirrels lying dead all over the county. As I mentioned in my previous letter, there is a distinct possibility that red squirrels are showing resistance to squirrelpox, hence why they're not all dying out "within weeks". This is how all animals evolve to combat disease - some die out but those that survive will go on to be part of a stronger healthier community.
The lack of habitat and food for red squirrels has very little to do with grey squirrels. Humans have been systematically destroying coniferous woodland in Britain, which is good habitat for reds, and poor for greys.
The urbanisation of Britain has also very much suited the bolder grey squirrel who'll happily live among humans, while leaving the very shy red squirrel stressed and prone to disease.
There is nothing systematic about the way grey squirrels breed and spread.
This is the talk of someone who wishes to demonise grey squirrels by making them seem to have a military intent of destroying the reds. They're simply breeding based on the habitat available, and spreading where there is new habitat that suits their needs. This is common to all animals, including red squirrels.
Without intervention and control, there'd have been no Government money wasted on a pointless witch hunt of grey squirrels, and red squirrels would still be surviving in small numbers where humans aren't yet pushing them out.
Is it any surprise that red squirrels are in greatest numbers to the North where the population density of humans is lowest, and the best coniferous forest habitat is available?
If Sally and her red squirrel exploiting followers want to do some genuine good, they could use their influence to encourage landowners to keep, and extend coniferous forests, and stop wasting money on grey squirrel traps, which will just reduce the population density of grey squirrels temporarily, only to cause an influx from surrounding areas which will lead to an even higher population density as they arrive in an empty habitat with no competition, allowing them to breed very successfully.
Sally mentions that Red and Grey squirrels cannot cohabit, but this is completely false. There is plenty of evidence to show that they can live together for periods as long as 20 years, so her randomly chosen figure of two years has absolutely no basis in fact, and is purely propoganda for her scientifically questionable campaign.
Again, your readers may wish to visit the website grey-squirrel.org.uk for further information, all of which is most certainly based on the best available scientific research.