Grey squirrels face Cornwall cull

image captionGrey squirrels were introduced to the UK in the late-19th Century

Thousands of grey squirrels could be culled in parts of Cornwall to help red squirrels return to the county.

Landowners on the Lizard and in west Penwith want to generate support for the scheme, which has the backing of Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall.

Grey squirrels carry a virus that kills red squirrels, which were last seen in Cornwall in 1984.

The grey squirrels would be initially culled using poisoned food and then trapped in later stages of the project.

Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, who owns about 400 acres around the Helford estuary on the Lizard said there was a "huge desire" to try to bring back the red squirrel to the area.

'Huge challenge'

However, he admitted a cull would be a "huge challenge".

"I'm not sure if we can succeed," he said.

"It only takes a few grey squirrels to get back in to put the project in jeopardy."

The culling would be paid for by landowners in the area.

The Prince of Wales will launch a reintroduction project for specially selected parts of the county as he visits the Royal Cornwall Show on Thursday.

It is legal to cull grey squirrels as long as the method used is approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

image captionSir Ferrers said it would only take a few greys to jeopardise the project

Small traps called hoppers containing poisoned maize have to be approved with a spring-loaded flap so that only the grey squirrels are caught and other animals like dormice are not captured.

Any poisoning has to be carried out by a trained person and culling is only allowed from March to August to protect non-target species looking for food.

The culling process could take a total of two years.

Sir Ferrers added: "It's a great opportunity.

"The Lizard is surrounded by the sea and we can create a buffer zone along a narrow gap from Helford to Looe Bar to stop greys from coming into the peninsula.

"If we can remove the greys from the Lizard we have a really wonderful chance to reintroduce the reds here."

Grey squirrels were first introduced to the UK from North America in the late-19th Century.

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