Evaluation of Immunocontraception as a Publicly Acceptable Form of Vertebrate Pest Species Control: The Introduced Grey Squirrel in Britain as an Example
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We sent out a targeted questionnaire to organizations and private individuals across the UK that have expressed an interest in squirrel management and conservation. Respondents were asked to evaluate shooting, trapping, poisoning and immunocontraception (IMC), according to their perceived efficacy, cost efficiency, and whether they were considered to be humane. The majority of both professionals and enthusiasts indicated support for grey squirrel control to help conserve red squirrels and to reduce economic damage to timber crops. Respondents\' comparative evaluations of current forms of control showed that trapping is the most acceptable method. When IMC is compared with the other methods, it was considered to be more humane and acceptable. In contrast, poisoning was seen as humane or acceptable by the fewest respondents. Furthermore, poisoning elicited the greatest difference in opinion between the professional and enthusiast groups. This difference (34\%) may be interpreted partly as concern over the type of death that results from poisoning and partly as due to the possibility of poisoning nontarget species. Our findings indicate a need for more public information regarding secondary poisoning hazards to other species and their predators. Interest and concern about squirrel control correlated with the overlap between contemporary areas of distribution of the two species. It is these areas where consultation and education programs about control methods should be targeted. This research indicates that there would be support for grey squirrel control using IMC from both lay and professional interest groups. It demonstrates the existence of a sound basis for constructive dialog that can lead to the design and implementation of acceptable and efficient control strategies.
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