Obscura Day 2017! Join our global celebration of exploration and discovery.
May 6

Prince Charles Is Behind a Plan to Use Nutella to Help Sterilize a Lot of Squirrels

The eastern gray squirrel is threatening the red squirrel’s existence.

A red squirrel.
A red squirrel. Tomi Tapio K/CC BY-SA 2.0

Red squirrels, or sciurus vulgaris, live and breathe all across northern Europe and parts of Siberia. But on the British Isles, their numbers, in recent years, have taken a nose dive

That’s thanks to, decades ago, human introduction of the eastern gray squirrel, or sciurus carolinensis, which is the kind of squirrel people on the East Coast of the U.S. are more familiar with but which can carry squirrelpox fatal to their red counterparts, in addition to harming broadleaf trees. 

The decline in reds—there are some 3.5 million gray squirrels in Britain, compared to fewer than 140,000 red squirrels—has led to broad concern in the country, including, and perhaps especially, from Prince Charles, who developed the UK Squirrel Accord three years ago to confront the problem. 

Earlier this week, one possible solution finally publicly emerged: a plan to feed gray squirrels oral contraceptives hidden in Nutella, according to the Sun. That plan could reduce gray squirrel populations by over 90 percent, officials said. 

Gray squirrels enjoy Nutella, as many living beings do, and Prince Charles is said to prefer the plan because no squirrels will be harmed.

Tests on captive squirrels may begin soon, according to the Sun, with the chairman of the Squirrel Accord telling the outlet that, with regard to reining in the gray squirrels’ population, “It is the most exciting prospect I have seen.”

Which means that gray squirrels might unwittingly be confronted with an impossible choice: whether to sacrifice their fertility for a fleeting taste of chocolate perfection.