Forget Frontex, Mare Nostrum and Schengen. It's gray squirrels causing major emigration headaches for Italy. Not only has the EU sent the Italian government three official "recommendations" asking it to get rid of its gray squirrels, but France and Switzerland have opened a case file too. They have essentially sent the message, "If we find even one in our woods, there will be war." Diplomatically, that is.
Gray squirrels were brought to Europe from the United States in the 20th century and are healthy carriers of a virus that is deadly to red squirrels. "The risk is that our children and grandchildren will no longer be able to see the native European (red) squirrel, only the U.S. one," says University of Genoa zoologist Andrea Marsan.
Thanks to a lack of environmentalism and excessive and ineffective animal rights laws, Italy is the only European country effectively doing nothing to banish the gray squirrel, La Stampa reports. The UK hasn't managed to eradicate the species either, but it's an island where measures have been taken to control the population in certain areas.
Unless the squirrels learn how to swim across the English Channel, Italy will have to bear the brunt of the blame and begin managing their population so it doesn't invade the rest of Europe. It's a race against time, with gray squirrels predicted to reach the Western Alps this year, France by 2026, and Switzerland between 2031 and 2041.