A new EU regulation, upheld by the UK government will force Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital to destroy hurt squirrels. The new forbids rescue centers from releasing non-native animals into the wild.
Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 already declared it an offense to release grey squirrels without a license after treatment. Rescue centers had the option of applying for a license from Natural England. The original act was introduced citing threats to the UK’s indigenous biodiversity from invasive species such as grey squirrels.
The new EU regulation – The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order came into effect from last October putting an end to the licensed program. As a result, Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital is telling us that they have no room to keep the animals in captivity meaning they would have no choice but to kill them humanely.
The new order can lead to prosecution if a rescue center is found releasing these animals into the wild. While the government has not asked the hospitals to euthanize the squirrels, lack of capacity to keep the rehabilitated animals forces the hospitals to do so.
The hospital has asked the public to stop bringing in injured grey squirrels for treatment. Grey squirrels are said to be the leading cause of the decrease in the population of the native red squirrel. Similar to the grey squirrel, muntjac deer also cannot be released back into the wild.
Harriet Childs, a team leader at the hospital in Kibworth, said: “We’re having to euthanize them for just being what they are and it’s not fair. We had to do one on Sunday and it’s a bit raw still.”
“We take in over 5,000 patients [injured animals] in a year, to risk that by disobeying the license wouldn’t be good on our part. If we do take [squirrels and muntjac deer] in we have to euthanize them or keep them in a cage for the rest of their life,” he says.