Earlier this week, it was revealed that a plan scientists in the UK had to curb the number of grey squirrels that have become somewhat of a problem for native wildlife was working.
That plan is an oral contraceptive – the pill – and there’s now an idea to coat that pill in a yummy substance humans and squirrels alike can enjoy: Nutella.
The overarching idea is to curb the UK’s grey squirrel population. While obviously cute, the grey squirrel is actually an invasive species in the UK. They were introduced from North America in the 1870s. According to the UK’s Woodland Trust, if enough food is available, females may produce two litters of three to four young per year. Sadly, these American imports have had a disastrous impact on the native red squirrel. They also carry a virus known as squirrelpox. While greys are immune to the disease, they transmit it to reds, and squirrelpox is fatal for the red squirrels.
The idea of an oral contraception for red squirrels has been floated for a while, with the UK government giving its support to the project back in January last year. This week, the UK Squirrel Accord published its findings. Just quickly, the UK Squirrel Accord is a partnership of 41 conservation and forestry organisations, government agencies and companies, with links to voluntary red squirrel conservation groups.
The research declared that oral contraceptives as fertility control could significantly reduce grey squirrel populations in the UK.
But how do you make sure the right squirrels munch the pill? The Accord said progress has also been made in this area. One idea, is coating the pill in a tasty nut spread, one us Aussies know as Nutella.
According to the BBC, there is a plan to lure these grey squirrels to feeding boxes containing hazelnut spread that’s spiked with contraceptives.
It’s believed the government scientists leading the research say the contraceptive, which makes both male and female grey squirrels infertile, should be ready to deploy in the wild within two years.
Here’s a snap of the cute little red squirrel from the UK Squirrel Accord’s Instagram: