The Scotsman is reporting that Britain has authorized the release of more than 250 grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) into the wild over the past two years. Given that the grey squirrel is an American species tied to the decline of the UK's native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), this recent revelation has some environmental groups scratching their heads in amazement.
Unfortunately the article does not provide any information about why the animals were released, or even why they were captured in the first place (probably caught chewing on power lines somewhere ;-))...so for more on the story, head over to the European Squirrel Initiative's news page, where they note that the British government deemed the release of "rehabilitated" grey squirrels okay given that the number they were permitting to be released was tiny in proportion to the number that already exist in the wild, and that they weren't allowing the greys to be released in areas that reds are known to still inhabit.
Animal rights groups in Scotland, where grey squirrels are routinely hunted down and euthanized, are now recommending that all Scottish greys be sent over to England, with one spokesperson noting that
"We don't believe it is acceptable to kill one species of squirrel in an attempt to try to conserve populations of another species of squirrel"