A WILDLIFE GROUP is fighting for the life of a grey squirrel affectionately dubbed the ‘Elgin Sweetie’ – as a rival group has attempted to justify it being destroyed.
The Interactive Centre for Scientific Research about Squirrels (ICSRS) are criticising the justification given by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels for killing Elgin Sweetie who say the grey squirrel species “are a threat to red squirrels”.
A row has erupted between the two organisations after an Elgin resident captured an image of the first ever grey squirrel spotted in Moray.
The image was caught on camera as the squirrel fed on nuts from a bird feeder. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels say that it is the first grey squirrel to be spotted in Moray, adding that a trap had been laid for the animal and when caught it would be killed and DNA-tested to find out where it came from.
However, Peter Matthew, the editorial secretary for ICSRS, says his group is one of several that would be willing to rehome the squirrel instead of killing it.
Mr Matthew said: “Scientific research proves that it’s not grey squirrels who are the biggest threat to red squirrels but human activities – this squirrel does not have to be killed.
“ICSRS were contacted by several wildlife sanctuaries with the licence to release grey squirrels and/or offer of a ‘foster home’ for squirrels.
“Such lifetime sanctuary, fully paid for by Save Wildlife and ICSRS, has already been arranged with the New Arc from Ellon, who are ready to take the squirrel immediately, as well as a vet who can collect ‘necessary DNA samples’ to be sent to the University of Edinburgh, who perform grey squirrel tests in Scotland – therefore there is no need to kill the animal.”
Mr Matthew insisted that there was no need to kill the animal to obtain blood samples for testing – these could be collected by any vet or vet nurse, and that an offer has already been made by the New Arc who have offered a ‘lifetime home’ for the squirrel – with an alternative of releasing the animal 100 miles away from the nearest area inhabited by red squirrels.
He added: “The charity urges Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels to find a humane solution to their grey squirrel dilemma since the alternative solutions already found make killing of the beautiful Elgin Sweetie pointless, as there is a sanctuary to take him and DNA samples can be collected from a living animal.”
ICSRS have added that research has shown grey squirrel populations from central and northern Scotland do not carry the pox virus, which has been a major threat to the native red squirrel population.