A HEREFORDSHIRE forester talks about genetically altering squirrels so the country's trees trees stop coming under attack.

The grey squirrels strip the bark from broad leaf trees causing environmental problems for foresters and £37 million worth of damage every year in England and Wales.

On Sunday’s BBC Countryfile Kay Haw, director of UK Squirrel Accord, said she has found a new way to combat the issue.

The group is a UK-wide partnership of 41 leading conservation and forestry organisations, government agencies and companies with links to voluntary red squirrel conservation groups.


Her team has invented a form of oral contraceptive for squirrels that goes in a feeding copper – this looks like a small box that the animal walks into where it will find food, but it will then cause infertility.

It only works for grey squirrels so no other animal would be able to get into it.

It could be used alternatively or as a complementary method to killing the squirrels, she said.

Ms Haw is modelling the contraceptive to find out if it could be used one its own.


Squirrel Accord hopes the contraceptive will be ready to roll out nationwide by 2030.

But forester Graham Taylor based in Herefordshire and Chair of the European Squirrel Initiative is supporting the idea to genetically alter squirrels so they could only have single sex offspring.

This would limit breeding and lead to population collapse.

Mr Taylor said you would capture a squirrel, introduce the gene drive into it, and then from their through the breeding process the squirrel produces a single sex which will follow throughout the generations.

"Then it builds up throughout the population and then you get population crash," he said.

 He understands why people may be scared about the prospect of this but there are good ecological reasons for doing it.

There is potential for it to be stopped once it is started, he said.

But there will be alot of testing before this is released as it is still at the development stage.

You can watch the full programme here.