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Britain repeals gray squirrel-killing laws

March 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM
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LONDON, March 18 (UPI) -- The British government announced it is repealing a 1937 measure requiring residents to report sightings of gray squirrels so the animals could be destroyed.

Oliver Heald, Britain's Solicitor General, told members of Parliament completely eradicating gray squirrels to protect the native red squirrels "is no longer considered feasible," leading ministers to repeal the Gray Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order of 1937, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

The law allowed authorities to prosecute residents who failed to report gray squirrel sightings on their property.

Gray squirrels were imported from North America in the 19th century and officials soon discovered the animals carried squirrel pox, which was disastrous for the native red squirrels as they lack immunity to the disease.

Heald said work is continuing on a squirrel pox vaccine for red squirrels and Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, maintains the power to order gray squirrels destroyed in areas where red squirrel populations are growing.

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