Grey squirrels should be served in restaurants, according to a wildlife campaign group.
Exmoor Squirrel Project, which is seeking to eradicate grey squirrels on Exmoor, so they can be replaced with native red squirrels, says the non-native creatures could be served up in stews, pies and kebabs.
Organisers are also in discussion with two restaurants about serving dishes containing grey squirrel.
The project is encouraging local homeowners and landowners to stop feeding grey squirrels, volunteer to monitor woodland for them, and in some cases, with the proper training from the project, set traps in gardens or on land to catch the squirrels.
Conservationists say red squirrels, which have lived in the UK for around 10,000 years, could become extinct here within a decade because of the invasive grey squirrel.
Unusual step: Grey squirrels should be served in restaurants, according to wildlife campaign group the Exmoor Squirrel Project
That’s nuts! In 2009, Walkers announced it would begin selling ‘Cajun Squirrel’ flavoured crisps after a competition for the public to suggest new flavours
It is not the first time eating squirrels has hit the news.
In 2009, Walkers announced that it would begin selling ‘Cajun Squirrel’ flavoured crisps after a competition for the public to suggest new flavours.
TOP 10 SQUIRREL RECIPE IDEAS
Squirrel is high in protein, low in fat and tastes ‘gamey, like rabbit’ according to those who’ve eaten it.
But what are some of the dishes you can have grey squirrel in? MailOnline looks at a round up from restaurateurs across Britain…
- ‘Critter fritter’, or croquette
- Squirrel goujons
- Roasted squirrel with apricot salad
- Slow cooker squirrel and dumplings
- Squirrel and mushrooms in a creamy sauce
The following year, the Daily Mail revealed how a branch of the supermarket chain Budgens in North London’s fashionable Crouch End had begun selling squirrel.
Squirrel pie, meanwhile, was a popular delicacy served up until the last century when it dropped off Britain’s menu, but it enjoyed a revival from the turn of the previous decade thanks to attempts to save its less aggressive red cousins from extinction.
Thousands of grey squirrels were sold to restaurants, butchers and went on sale at farmer’s markets after being legally trapped and shot in woodland and rural areas.
A decade later, an anti-vegan protester was filmed eating a dead squirrel in front of shocked onlookers at a vegan market.
Grey squirrels carry the squirrelpox virus, which causes them no harm, but is deadly for reds.
While some environmentalists simply want to keep the two sets of squirrels apart, the Exmoor Squirrel Project wants to get rid of greys and reintroduce red squirrels.
Kerrie Hosegood, acting manager of Exmoor Squirrel Project, who owns a forestry firm called Three Atop Woodland Services, says grey squirrels have caused an estimated £40 million worth of damage to UK trees.
She said: ‘I have eaten grey squirrel before, after skinning and deboning one, and it tastes quite nice — gamey, like rabbit.
‘It is perfect to leave in the slow cooker and eat in a stew.
‘We want people to help control the grey squirrel, so are offering training.
‘Landowners and homeowners can help tackle the problem of grey squirrels which destroy trees.’
Grey squirrels are one the main reasons for local extinctions of red squirrels (pictured) in large areas of the UK, as they directly compete with them. As they are larger and stronger, the greys are able to take a larger share of available food and steal from red squirrels’ food caches
Squirrel can be served in many different dishes, including with root vegetables in a stew
The grey squirrel is the main reason for the decline of the red squirrel, having replaced the native squirrels across almost all of England and Wales.
Wildlife groups carefully monitor squirrel populations and carry out targeted control of grey squirrels in areas where red squirrels are at risk of extinction.
The Exmoor Squirrel Project, however, wishes to reintroduce red squirrels by getting rid of grey squirrels, and already carries out trapping and shooting of greys.
Mrs Hosegood said: ‘A grey squirrel will strip bark to get to the sap underneath, and we need to protect our woodland and native trees.
‘I don’t think any animal should die in vain, though, so it makes sense that we eat these squirrels.
‘It would also be great to donate grey squirrels to animal sanctuaries and zoos, which may be struggling with the cost of living crisis, to be used as food for their carnivores.’
WHY ARE RED SQUIRRELS ENDANGERED IN THE UK?
There are only an estimated 160,000 red squirrels in the UK, with just 15,000 in England.
The grey squirrel is the main reason for their decline. As greys are larger and stronger, they are able to take a larger share of available food and steal from red squirrels’ food caches.
Greys also carry the Squirrelpox virus, which doesn’t cause them any harm but is fatal to red squirrels.
There are only an estimated 160,000 red squirrels in the UK, with just 15,000 in England
Source: The Wildlife Trusts