Rescue groups and centers will be banned from releasing grey squirrels into the wild after Brexit as they will be considered “illegal aliens.”
Rescue groups have been rescuing injured and orphaned grey squirrels then releasing them into the wild once they get better or independent enough.
However, as the UK leaves the European Union (EU), releasing grey squirrels as well as muntjac deer will soon become illegal under the Invasive Alien Species Order 2019 as they are non-native in the UK and therefore labelled as “illegal aliens.”
Environmental Minister Therese Coffey said: “Healthy animals taken from the wild may be kept until the end of their natural lives, under licence, provided that they are prevented from breeding or escape.”
The new law, which will take effect on March 29, caused outrage from rescue groups and centers, who claim that their licenses could be revoked and will be left to euthanize the animals.
According to Natalia Doran, who’s in charge of the rescue group Urban Squirrels, many rescue centers do not have facilities to keep animals until they pass away due to natural causes.
“There are huge, well-funded centres and they don’t believe in keeping animals in captivity, it’s really not a solution,” she told The Independent.
“When you think about the kind of animal that goes 20 metres up in the air what kind of enclosure would you have.”
“They are saying we don’t have to euthanise them but what would we do if fresh ones come in.”
Doran added that she has a license to keep up to 12 grey squirrels but receives approximately 80 phone calls per year from the public.
Although she wants to continue taking grey squirrels but not release them in the wild, Natural England informed her that all licenses would be revoked at the end of March.
A petition was created by Doran on the parliamentary website to let grey squirrels be rescued then released into the wild once they recover.
If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will start a parliamentary debate considering the exemption of grey squirrels from the new rules.
The petition has around 47,000 signatures so far.