Scientists Want to Hack Grey Squirrels to Death

By Gary Cutlack on at

Scottish scientists are planning to hack the DNA of the often-hated grey squirrel, in hope that selectively breeding a broken female strain could lead to their eventual eradication from the wild. It's the only way a map of Scotland is likely to turn red in the foreseeable future.

It's the work of the Roslin Institute, the Edinburgh-based science collective famously responsible for creating cloned sheep Dolly. The idea is to breed and release gene-edited squirrels that have been engineered to create sterile female offspring when they reproduce, sowing the seed of destruction into any targeted community of greys. This uses what's known as a gene drive, a method of only altering female offspring so males still inherit the newly edited genes, and may continue to spread their hacked life code.

This initiative has the backing of the European Squirrel Initiative, with member Andrew Kendall saying: "The aim would be to create a few thousand gene-edited greys and then release them so the gene spreads, slowly wiping the species out in the UK. We want to reverse the invasion. It is very humane – there is no need for trapping or shooting – they just stop reproducing."

The ESI has previously said we should eat them as a way of getting rid, so this is indeed significantly more humane. [Scotsman]