Prof. Acorn?, Photo copyright Michael Castellano
Home > Facts about the "Nativeness" argument

Grey Squirrels are often termed as "aliens" by the conservationists and government bodies who blame them for killing the "native" red squirrel. However, this isn't as clear cut as you might think!

First of all, the very definition of "nativeness" used by these organisations is based on political boundaries and associations, rather than by the actual range of species or the birthplace of individuals. To demonstrate how meaningless this is, a polar bear from Alaska would be regarded as "native" to the Nevada deserts, simply because it is a "native species" of the USA. This is clearly an absurd definition!

Key points at a glance

1. "Nativeness" is based on political boundaries rather than sensible concepts of the range of a species, or the birthplace of individuals

2. Evidence to support the "nativeness" of red squirrels in the north of the UK is extremely low

3. Humans are part of the environment, and therefore as legitimate a means of transporting species as any other natural means

4. Most Red Squirrels currently in the UK are also "aliens" by conservationists criteria. They were imported from Scandinavia to replenish numbers.

"Nativeness" is often decided on the basis of those animals or plants which have existed in an area following the last ice age. Squirrel Natural Heritage (SNH) recently carried out a study and found there is actually little or no evidence suggesting that the Red Squirrel has a natural range reaching much further north than Derbyshire during this time. Indeed, in all probability, this was the very edge of its range, which stretches all the way from the Far East.

Different species are transported all the time across the planet by birds, wind and tides. Conservationists argue that a species is not native if it is introduced (intentionally or accidentally) by humans. In effect, they are taking the ridiculous step of excluding humanity from nature, despite humans having had the greatest effect on the planet of all species!

If, however, you do entertain the concept of "nativeness" put forward by the conservationists, then the vast majority of the Red Squirrels currently in the UK are no more native then Grey Squirrels, having been introduced to the UK from Scandinavia, among other areas, following local extinctions of the true "native" reds.

Continue: Facts about the Red Squirrel's demise >

Native by Birth - Condemned by Origin