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M'Lord and the Squirrel

'The Squirrel Wars' by D.T. Max - RichardDawkins.net
Reposted from:

When you think of England, Rupert Redesdale is who you think of. He has a slanting forehead, a nose shaped like an adze and the pink face of an aristocrat from the Georgian era. But in fact his family is far older: it is one of five in Britain that can trace its roots directly back to William the Conqueror, the last successful invader of England, in 1066. "Our original name was Bertram," he told me recently. "We were Normans." Redesdale, a 40-year-old baron, can stand on a Northumberland hilltop and see the Rede Valley, with the Rede River running through it. He is able to say things like, "Our family had a castle in Mitford, but Robert the Bruce, the sod, knocked it down."

I first met Lord Redesdale one day in August in the Lake District, about 80 miles southwest of his home in the Rede Valley. The Lake District, in the north of England, is on the front lines of a new Hundred Years' War. It is a war between rodents. Since the 19th century, gray squirrels, an American import, have been overtaking Britain's native red squirrels and claiming their territory.....The country's National Lottery granted £626,000 to a group called Save Our Squirrels to run the reserves. Save Our Squirrels, or S.O.S., is a who's who of British conservation organizations, among them the Mammals Trust and Natural England.....Redesdale, too, has planted his standard on behalf of the red army. Last year, with a grant of £148,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he founded an organization called the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership. The work of Redesdale's organization is different from that of S.O.S. It shoots, or traps and then smashes on the head, every gray it can find....

Redesdale doesn't travel alone. Always by his side is a man named Paul Parker. Parker is a professional pest controller from Newcastle. He keeps 300 dead grays in his freezer, seven of them skinned, waiting for the day he will have time to cook them. When I asked Redesdale how many squirrels the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership had killed to date, he said, "We've taken 2,000 whatsis. . . ." and Parker added, in his heavy Newcastle accent, "2,000 - 300 - 32." They laughed like boys killing flies for sport.

Parker had said he wanted me to shoot the squirrel - that grays were in Britain was, after all, my fault as an American - and I did not want to. He had also asked Redesdale to shoot the squirrel, and he did not want to either. Now Redesdale seemed to be summoning his nerve. "We keep on being told by the bunny-huggers, you know the wildlife-trust people, I mean I'm all for - I mean killing things to me is bad," he said. "I'm all for it but at some point you have to nail your colors to the mast."

I had by that point learned more about Redesdale: he and his wife met at a human rights conference; he has mixed feelings about being a lord ("No one really cares if it's you that shows up"); when he first sat in the House of Lords, at age 23, he looked across at a cousin who was the Tory whip and remembers thinking, "I'd rather eat warm vomit," after which he joined the Liberal Democrats, a party that, he points out proudly, is to the left of Labor; and he does not like guns ("I don't see the sport in hunting").

All the same, Redesdale was the officer; Parker, the enlisted man. If Redesdale did not kill the squirrel, he would never be able to lead. And had his family not led for 1,000 years? So we drove to an isolated parking lot, and Parker took the cage out of the trunk. He put the trap - "it's me killing trap," he said - on the asphalt. This was the place this animal was going to die.

The squirrel, large and dark gray with just a hint of red to his fur, wheeled around the cage looking for a way out. Then it made a piteous noise, a whee-whee-whee sound. Parker handed the air rifle to Redesdale, and he pointed it.

"That's the, uh, trigger?" Redesdale said.

"That's right," Parker said.

The squirrel paused. Redesdale steadied the barrel over its head. Then came the shot.

"You've got it," Parker said softly.

But he hadn't.

"Is it dead?" I asked stupidly.

The squirrel raced around the cage, blood dripping from somewhere around its mouth. WHEE-WHEE-WHEE. The same noise.

"I know it's bad when they run," Redesdale apologized. I thought I saw the warm-vomit look in his eyes.

The squirrel kept running and finally stopped when it realized there was still nowhere to go. Redesdale once more placed the rifle over its head. POP! The squirrel fell on its side and shook, scrabbled and shimmied twice around the cage like a break dancer.

"They're dead when they do that, aren't they?" Redesdale said, sounding more Macbeth than Prince Hal. Parker assured him it was dead: these were just the death throes.


So are you for or against killing the yankee invaders. Personally I've been an advocate of shooting every grey bastard you see for years now but it hasn't made a lot of difference so far!!

One of the five families who can trace their lineage back to the Normans?

Surely this is bollocks. Are you suggesting that no other people then alive in England have any living progeny?

Put that way, you know it's bollocks.

"Trace" is the operative word, and that's just a matter of luck and effort.

It doesn't make them anything special - The man's the man for a'that.

And no, I am emphatically not a closet socialist.

CBS ran a story about "Lawd" Rupert Redesdale's "war" against gray squirrels this morning (02/03/08)on it's "Sunday Morning" show> It angered me to think that these were the same people (British ARisocracy) who brought starlings and sparrows to the North American continent. Talk about invasive species!

Well, what goes around comes around and I view the "problem" the Brits have with gray squirrels as a payback of sorts. Yet, I feel there is a much greater debt to be repaid. Therefore, I propose we ship a few white tailed deer and Canadian Geese over to jolly old England!

What say you?

hr is an asshole aand i cannot believe he gets so much attention. people like this are sick. get a life!

Emmmmm, I think the brits have plenty Canadian Geese.
Read the facts on them, they are on General license.

Well Mr Parker and friend.
You are not very good are you ?
You seem to shine a dim "silly" light on fieldsports and pest control.
Maybe some one will show you how to do it correct one day.
Stick to what your good at ! Wearing dead ferrets on your top lip !
Muppet boy

It's not the grey squirrel's fault that it's in England, so to prevent such things happening in the future, surely we should be exterminating the cause, not the symptom ... and that's us, isn't it?

To whom it may concern.

I live in the midlands and on average I shoot approx 3 gray squirrels a week in my garden. I believe that the gray squirrel migratted from the south from it's introduction, therefore if we all attempt to reduce the numbers less grey squirrels will be born. If we do not reduce the numbers in the south other parts of Northern England are on an uphill struggle as proven in the past the squirrels migrate in very short periods of time over great distances. I will continue my efforts but I would have thought this is a national problem to rid of these creatures.
How can we help in other parts of the country.

Hands off the adorable gray squirrels, you despicable barbarians in Great Britain! The real reason you barbarians kill those beautiful-in-and-out animals is your animosity toward the American people. You barbarians consider those valuable animals the AMERICAN INVASION! The gray squirrels DO NOT eradicate the super-adorable red squirrels. Red squirrels simply run away from the grays, as the latter are stronger genetically. The way to preserve the reds is to focus ON THEM, not to focus murderously on the grays. The number one killer of the squirrels are the bandit-drivers on the streets and roads. Conduct an educational campaign for them to stop killing squirrels. Put up “STOP for squirrels” road signs. Exterminate natural killer of squirrels – raccoons, hawks, falcons, eagles, etc. Protect and feed everywhere the adorable squirrels; ALL OF THEM!

You are lucky squirrel-murdering bandits I don’t live in your decadent country. If I caught you killing squirrels, it would be YOU who would be hunted by me, after being given one warning to stop.

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