I was browsing through a 1950 copy of the Sussex County Magazine when I came across a section called Nature Notes by Walter J C Murray.
e wrote: “The last time I saw a Red Squirrel in Sussex was round about 1923-25. I cannot tell the exact year because one is rarely able to record the last time one sees anything, as one never knows it is the last time.”
Though Monty Python might cruelly term Mr Murray as simply stating the “******** obvious” I must confess I find it a disarmingly quaint observation. He goes on to say that “… by 1930 records of the Grey Squirrel were pouring in and all of a sudden we realized that the Red Squirrel was no more, and that for every one of these charming picturesque little creatures a dozen Grey Squirrels had taken its place. It was not long before the Sussex farm hand dubbed them ‘tree rats’ and the name has stuck.”
Mr Murray wondered why the Red Squirrel went into such drastic retreat particularly as he had never met an eye-witness who had actually seen a Grey killing a Red. He concluded his article with the prediction that the Grey Squirrel will doubtless survive “but let us not hesitate to keep its numbers down on every possible occasion.”
I’ve done my bit to help. I brought home a Grey Squirrel that was road kill and decided to cook and eat it. Having skinned it in preparation for the pot I was taken aback to find a tattoo across the creature’s chest. On close examination it read: “Caution. May contain nuts.”