Restaurants told to include grey squirrel on their menus

Countryfile: Tom Heap learns of threat posed by grey squirrels

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Wildlife campaigners have called on restaurants to start serving grey squirrels on their menus to avoid waste. The woodland creatures are said to be destroying the local environment and threatening populations of native red squirrels.

As a result, thousands of grey squirrels are to be culled using live traps and other methods across a 22-mile woodland tunnel in Exmoor National Park.

However, to ensure that the miniature mammals don’t go to waste, environmentalists are calling on west country restaurants to start serving up grey squirrels to their diners.

Despite their size, grey squirrels are killing trees all over Exmoor by eating their nutrient-rich insides.

Kerrie Hosegood, woodland and wildlife manager at the project, told The i: “We’ve got entire woodlands in our landscape across Exmoor that are being completely decimated due to that behaviour.”

However, she doesn’t want the cullers to “dig a hole and put them in the ground”, but instead make use of their nutritious meat.

She said: “It’s almost similar to rabbit, a bit more gamey, but it’s very good meat, it’s full of nutrition. A nice squirrel stew – there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The grey squirrel is not native to Britain like the red squirrel. It was brought to Britain in 1870 by American landowners.

The grey squirrel, otherwise known as the eastern grey squirrel, was originally found on the US east coast.

Such is the blight caused by the grey squirrel, the native red no longer lives in Exmoor.

Red squirrels are killed by the squirrel pox virus which is carried by their grey cousins. As a result, the red population has dwindled to 160,000 nationwide.

New oral contraceptives have been laced into the food of grey squirrels, after a drive from the Animal and Plant Health Agency to reduce the numbers of the pesky rodents.

Tim Maddams, a chef and food industry consultant said that grey squirrel’s white meat is “rich and delicious”, but did issue a warning to curious home cooks.

He said: “As long as you can make a nice risotto with a bit of parsley and parmesan sprinkled on the top no one is going to know there’s a squirrel in there.”

However, he noted that it’s important to know the source of the meat when buying from a butcher as the squirrel may have been poisoned. He also warned curious eaters should avoid eating the brain.

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