U.K. Mammals Trust says “Yankee animals, go home!”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:
LONDON–Great Britain from the time of Queen Elizabeth I
through the reign of Queen Victoria energetically exported favored
livestock and wildlife species throughout the British Empire.
Rabbits and foxes were sent to Australia and New Zealand,
starlings and house sparrows to the U.S.–but now Britain is on the
receiving end of introductions, especially from the U.S., and some
conservationists view the new arrivals as threats to the national
David Macdonald and Fran Tatter-sall of the Mammals Trust
reported in May 2002 that the population of native English water
voles fell by 90% during the 20th century, due to habitat
competition and predation by introduced American mink.
Macdonald and Tattersall also blamed the recent decline of
native red squirrels on the success of introduced American grey
squirrels, and lamented that DNA analysis of native British pine
martens showed the presence of at least two American pine martens in
their gene pool.
“The discovery of this species in northern England is a
depressingly early fulfillment of our prediction last year that
numbers of alien species are likely to increase,” Macdonald and
In other words, Macdonald and Tattersall found that the
Yanks are “Oversexed, overabundant, and over here,” as British
soldiers complained of U.S. air crews stationed in England during
World War II, who were notorious for increasing the genetic
diversity of both the British and American human populations, at
expense of notions about cultural purity.
Ruddy ducks, native to the U.S. but introduced to Britain in
1950, have already been subject of an extermination campaign since
1999, specifically because they migrate to Spain and hybridize with
whiteheaded ducks, a close relative. Genetically “pure” whiteheaded
ducks are now scarce.
A quiet cull of 2,600 ruddy ducks by the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in July 2002 was denounced by
Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler as a “callous, cynical,
anti-democratic and sick genetic cleansing operation.”
The same week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a
cull of domesticated mallards from Florida waters to keep them from
hybridizing with mottled ducks. The gist of the issue on both sides
of the Atlantic is that differently colored ducks simply do not
recognize “species” differences among themselves defined by 19th
century taxonomists, that in actuality are no greater than the
genetically minute differences among humans of different race and
dogs of different breed.
The British government has also made sporadic efforts to cull
mink and grey squirrels, but both are already broadly distributed
and are evidently better adapted to the present British environment
than the natives, possibly as result of climate change and, in the
case of the squirrels, changes in the predominant types of forest.
“The big issue now is the eradication of mink. There are
probably millions of mink,” Mammals Trust chief executive Valerie
Keeble told Daily Telegraph environment editor Charles Clover.
“People are unwilling to make this a very high profile
issue,” continued Keeble. “Everybody is afraid of a backlash,”
should the British government encourage mink hunting and trapping
after abolishing mink ranching under animal rights movement pressure.
The conservation organization Scottish Natural Heritage
meanwhile announced a plan to try to extirpate an estimated 5,000
hedgehogs from the Uists islands in the Outer Hebrides, to protect
nesting seabirds. Introduced in 1974 as an attempted biological
control on garden-damaging slugs and snails, the hedgehogs prey upon
the eggs of dunlin, lapwing, redshank, and snipe.
By July 10, Scottish Natural Heritage was in retreat, as
the British Hedgehog Preservation Association, British Hedgehog
Conservation Society, Advocates for Animals, and Kirkcudbright
Hedgehog Rescue mobilized to demand the opportunity to repatriate the
animals to Britain alive.
“English gardeners are crying out for hedgehogs to predate on
slugs,” the Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer told James Freeman
of the Glasgow Herald, in her capacity as environment spokesperson
for the Liberal Democrat Party.
“We have an army of volunteers willing to travel to the
islands to pick up the animals. There is no way we will allow the
hedgehogs to be culled,” declared Les Stocker of St. Tiggywinkle’s
hedgehog hospital and sanctuary to Paul Kelbie, Scotland
correspondent for The Independent.
“We have the expertise in dealing with projects like this
one,” Stocker continued, “as we are regularly involved in wildlife
cleanup operations. Hedgehogs are probably one of the easiest
species to relocate, and when the time comes, we are prepared to
relocated many of them to the south of Engliand, where the climate
and habitat are ideal.”