The native red squirrel of Britain is slowly being replaced by the grey squirrel that was introduced from North America over a hundred years ago. The Victorians thought of the grey squirrel as a harmlessly exotic animal that could safely be introduced into the British countryside without any deleterious effects. They would simply add colour and diversity to the landscape. It didn’t occur to the Victorians that the grey squirrel might outbreed and then replace the native red squirrel population. Yet this happened nonetheless. Now red squirrels have been reduced to small, beleaguered populations up in the very north of Britain and on the Isle of Wight in the south.
The grey squirrel already exists successfully in its native America and since the two kinds of squirrel aren’t able to share the same piece of land without the grey replacing the red, I wish the grey had never been introduced into Britain. I don’t blame the grey squirrel for any of this, nor do I much blame the Victorians for not having more foresight. There probably was some far-sighted Cassandra whose warnings were ignored and mocked and I feel sorry both for him and the red squirrel. And if I were a red squirrel, I’d feel bloody annoyed at the people who, on a whim, had given away my ancestral home to a group of outsiders who simply don’t belong here.