It’s a grey day for squirrels, so rumour has it

PUBLISHED: 11:24 26 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:30 06 May 2010

IF you listen very carefully you may just about hear little sighs of relief coming from Norton Common, that oasis of quiet in the heart of Letchworth Garden City. There was a scare at the weekend among part of the wildlife population inhabiting the green

IF you listen very carefully you may just about hear little sighs of relief coming from Norton Common, that oasis of quiet in the heart of Letchworth Garden City.

There was a scare at the weekend among part of the wildlife population inhabiting the green space.

The bush telegraph passed on Sunday's news that biodiversity minister Jim Knight had announced a new action plan to control grey squirrels.

A variation of these, of course, is the black squirrel for which the town is famed throughout the world.

It's not actually true that it is the only place on Earth where these dark as night creatures are found although some people think that is a fact.

However, they are relatively rare so any talk of a cull along with their grey brothers of which there are many locally is horrifying for not only them but also animal lovers.

Perish the thought that anything may be done to shorten the lives of these furry frolickers, the sight of which are bound to delight children on nature rambles.

.Many people love grey squirrels, admits Mr Knight, but the down-to-earth Government minister says the reality is that they are a real problem for some of our most threatened native species like the native red squirrel and dormouse.

Since the grey squirrel was introduced into this country from North America in the 19th century it has done a pretty good job of beating up the red ones.

They are stronger and more adaptable than the red and - their secret weapon - they carry the squirrelpox virus (I kid you not) which is deadly to reds.

So the greys with an estimated population of more than two million are now outnumbering the reds by 66 to one. And they are doing a lot of damage to woodlands.

So something drastic must be done to control these pests, insists the Government.

When this quickly filtered down to the grass roots, so to speak, the greys of Norton Common must have been thinking about stocking up on nuts and starting to build twig barricades.

But hold on a mo, the whole idea of this initiative is to throw a lifeline to those loveable reds and there are none round these parts. The nearest enclave is on the Isle of Wight, apparently.

I can't imagine the greys of Letchworth going there for their holidays so, problem over.

It's nice to have a tail with a happy ending.

It's the same the world over, but more so in some places than others, it seems. I'm talking about gossiping which everyone loves - unless it is about them.

A new survey reveals that the average Scot spends at least 96 minutes a day chatting while those in the South East devote the least time to it, around 55 minutes.

Unsurprising to me, the findings prove that women do gossip more than men (that's not me saying it, so don't throw any grey squirrels my way). On the other hand, men are more likely to pass on a secret told to them in confidence and are also more likely to read someone else's email without their permission.

Pretty sneaky, huh?

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