GENOVA - Italy is waging war on a group of American invaders that are threatening the existence of their European peers. American grey squirrels, which were first introduced into Europe in 1948, have thrived in the parks of the northeastern region of Liguria since the 1960s.

With 10-inch-long bodies, equally long tails and a weight that can reach 21 oz., American grey squirrels are bigger than European red squirrels. These strong Americans invaders steal the Europeans' food and carry diseases that are lethal to locals.

To defend the indigenous squirrel population, Liguria, Piemonte and Lombardia regions, as well as the Italian Environment ministry, have launched a project aimed at uprooting the estimated 300 American grey squirrels living in the Levante Genovese Park. The cost of the war against American squirrels – nearly 2 million euros – is partially covered by the European Union.

This squirrel war has its ‘general,' Andrea Balduzzi, a professor of natural sciences at the University of Genoa. At dawn, the professor and his student troops go after the invaders, armed with traps and cages. Once caught, the animals are transferred to vets to be sterilized before being released in natural parks. And it seems all is fair in love and war: squirrels caught outside the park are executed by euthanasia.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation.

Read the full article in Italian by Alessandra Pieracci

Photo - Il conte di Luna