A Tale of Two Squirrels:

Peter Coates

in Invasive Species in a Globalized World

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2014 | ISBN: 9780226166049
Published online May 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780226166216 | DOI:
A Tale of Two Squirrels:

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Historical studies of invasive species traditionally focus on European biota in North America. Yet the lesser known and less extensively studied transfer of American species to Europe also created significant ecological and economic problems. The cultural impact has also been substantial as questions of belonging and authenticity enter the debate. This historical case study of the gray squirrel in Britain has three objectives: to examine the relationship between the gray squirrel’s success and the decline of the native red squirrel; to investigate efforts to control this ‘pest’ species for economic reasons and for biodiversity’s sake; and to explore the role of cultural considerations (specifically anti-Americanism) in shaping British attitudes to the ‘American’ gray squirrel. The relationship between the gray squirrel’s expanding population in Britain and the fall in red squirrel numbers is more complex than the received wisdom suggests. The gray squirrel has served as a scapegoat for the declining fortunes of a creature that is not just a different squirrel but a national faunal emblem. This tale of two squirrels highlights the powerful role of cultural considerations in shaping attitudes to invasive species and underlines how they complicate the decision-making environment.

Keywords: Great Britain; red squirrel; Tamiasciurus hudsonicus; gray squirrel; invasive species; anti-Americanism

Chapter.  10795 words. 

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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