Wild Britain: Unabashed urban foxes, multiplying moles and the return of the red squirrel
The UK – particularly London – has been buzzing with wildlife news of late. There’s been a lot of man vs. beast, invasive beast vs. native beast and even man vs. himself.
The biggest of these stories has to be the case of the urban fox attacking twin baby girls in an east London house. The young fox slipped into the open house one unusually warm evening and viciously bit the babies about the arms and face as they slept in their upstairs bedroom. The incident has inspired strong reactions – sometimes bordering on the hysterical – public debate and plenty of media discussion of the event and the UK’s fox situation in general.
Fox attacks against people are unusual, but not unheard of. Urban foxes, increasingly common in London, are both loved and hated by the city’s residents, who either enjoy a bit of wild in their streets or dislike having their rubbish bins raided by the noisy nocturnal bandits.
Read more about the incident and Britain’s urban foxes in the Guardian piece entitled ‘Invasion of the urban foxes’.
In other UK ‘invasive’ species news, moles are making a huge comeback – to the chagrin of many farmers and gardeners. The Independent reports that exterminator calls regarding moles have gone up by a factor of three during the past two years. But are they actually pests?
They are insectivores and their diet could include such common nasties as cockchafer larvae and wire worms which can do an awful lot of damage to plants.
– David Wembridge, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
Meanwhile, the cute, tufted-eared indigenous red squirrel is set to receive some aid in reestablishing itself on the British Isles. According to a report in the Telegraph, the nearly extinct red squirrels will get a royal helping hand from Prince Charles against their competing cousins, the North American grey squirrels who, since arriving in the UK over 100 years ago, have outmuscled the reds – along with some help from the pox. It’s all very medieval sounding.
But first thousands of grey squirrels will have to be trapped and killed, sparking the anger of animal rights groups.
Though the invasive grey squirrels do damage to hardwood saplings, I suspect it’s superficiality that really gets the sympathy going. They’re smaller, less ‘ratty’ and just damn well cuter than the Yank squirrels, by Jove.
by Graham Land