We humans love Nutella. But we are not the only ones. At squirrels they also love it. So in England, after the desperation caused by the expansion of gray squirrel populations, last January they decided to leave Nutella containers loaded with contraceptives.
It may seem cruel, but the truth is that, although the methods are somewhat strange, it is a necessary measure to combat one of many invasive species.
These are species of animals, plants or any other living organism that have developed outside their environment or natural habitat, causing alterations in the ecosystems to which they move. In the case of gray squirrel, his transfer from America to England in the XIX century It was very expensive for the English, because now they do not know what to do to control the damage they cause, both to the flora of the forests and their fauna. Hence the adulterated Nutella.
Squirrels out of place
In the 19th century, the acclimatization societies. These were organizations that promoted the transfer of both animal and plant species out of their natural environment, with the aim of obtaining useful resources or simply enjoying their beauty.
Acclimatization societies promoted the transfer of species out of their habitat
The gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) was in the second group. The ones that were transported to other places just to be pretty. And of course they are. These squirrels, also known as squirrels of the carolinasThey are dark gray, with light brown tones on the head, belly, legs and shoulders. In addition, they have a nice tail with a nice tuft of hair that makes them adorable. If to all that we add that they are very friendly and sociable animals It is not strange that some Europeans traveling through the Americas fell in love with them.
But out of all of them, there was a silk maker named Thomas Unett Brocklehurts who in 1876 started a problem that has been going on for more than a century. It is told by the biologist Ángel León Panal in his book Historia de las Species Invasoras. In one of the first chapters he describes how that merchant decided to free several gray squirrels in a country house he owned in the cheshire county. It thus opened the ban on many more imports, which they continued until 1937. By then the population had already exploded and was beginning to cause the first havoc. However, it was too late to fix it simply by banning the import.
These squirrels usually remove the Bark of the trees to build their nests, causing serious damage to the forests. In addition, they feed on the young and eggs of birds whose species are suffering due to their proliferation. And if all that wasn’t enough, they carry diseases like squirrel pox. This is not dangerous for humans, but it is dangerous for red squirrels. Their habitat is found in England; but, without eating or drinking it, they are seeing their home usurped and, to top it all, they are making them sick.
Nutella to end the problem
All kinds of plans have been proposed to control gray squirrel populations. At first they were excessively drastic. In fact, according to León Panal in his book, in the 50’s last century a price was put on their tails. Thus, many hunters would go after them and help control their population. But it was not enough.
It has also been proposed to hunt gray squirrels and consume their meat
Over the years he has set out to get something good out of his hunting, since his meat it seems to be very nutritious and healthier than others with a more widespread consumption. However, at the moment in Europe it is not very well seen that eating squirrels.
For this reason, last January, the UK Environment Minister, Lord goldsmith, announced a curious decision by the government: sterilize gray squirrels by Nutella mixed with birth control. The politician based this decision on the fact that these animals cost him a few 1.8 billion pounds per year to the country. In addition, they affect the damage they cause to other species.
To carry out the sterilization, boxes loaded with the adulterated hazelnut cream are placed in strategic places, more frequented by gray squirrels than red squirrels. Anyway, as explained in January in National Geographic, it is known that the latter are more likely to detect danger than the first ones, so taking this into account it would not be difficult to direct the traps only to the gray ones.
At the time it was announced that with this plan it was expected reduce gray squirrel population by 90%. The truth is that it is not the first time that it is tried. In 2017, the Nutella trick was used with contraceptives to control the population of these invasive species. And they’re still fired, so it shouldn’t have gone very well. But who knows? Persistence is a very important quality. Maybe this time they are succeeding. Time will tell.