Nick Mason of Red Squirrels Northern England Project stated (Letters, September 10, ‘Reds need our help’) that grey squirrels spreading disease and competing for resources are ‘the primary drivers of red squirrel decline across the UK’.

However, it has been demonstrated that this is not the case; this is best illustrated by Jessica Holme (zoologist and former presenter of the Natural History Programme) in her book Squirrels.

She writes: ‘Was the grey squirrel responsible for the disease (parapox virus) amongst the native red? No, it wasn’t. Out of 44 districts where red squirrels were affected by disease between 1900 and 1920, only 4 had grey squirrels present...[Reds] suffered a terrible decline, exacerbated by further demands on the country’s timber resources during the two world wars, and a series of vicious winters between 1939 and 1943.’ This, coupled with mass human persecution up until 1927, demonstrates that red squirrel decline has more to do with extreme winter weather, disease and slaughter by human beings, rather than the impact of greys.

Grey squirrels - brought to Britain to be displayed in zoos - are tougher, more suited to our woodlands and resistant to the symptoms of parapox virus. Trying to help a native species survive is fine, but not where it involves the cruel slaughter of another species.

Tod Bradbury

Animal Aid