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Grey Squirrels

The RFS is backing research into grey squirrels and how they can be effectively controlled.


RFS members have named the grey squirrel and the damage it causes to woodland trees as their number one challenge (download survey right)

 Squirrelinaction Pestdamage 150517 Pt Lr Mg 1360 2
 Barkdamage Pestdamage 150517 Ptwn 42940
 Barkdamage2 Pestdamage 150517 Ptwn 42879
 Above: Grey squirrel caught in action and below some of the extensive damage they can do

We are is an active member of the UK Squirrel Accord. More on the Squirrel Accord and progress into fertility contol research here.

Grey squirrels strip the bark of many young broadleaved trees, particularly sycamore, beech, oak and sweet chestnut aged 10-40 years, but other species as well, including conifers. This stunts tree development, killing trees or reducing them to scrub. The economic cost of grey squirrel damage to woodlands is conservatively put at £14m a year, but the wider cost to landscapes and biodiversity is much greater.

Trees damaged by grey squirrels will not take their place as objects of beauty and utility in the landscape. As our mature oaks and beech start to decay, the next generation will not survive to replace them. Our treed landscape will be irretrievably damaged, the prospects of producing home grown timber undermined and the biodiversity of our woodlands reduced.

Without a concerted and sustained programme by landowners and forest managers to control grey squirrels, it is quite pointless to plant broadleaved trees. Some landowners are turning their backs on broadleaved planting for this reason.

Grey squirrels were introduced by the Victorians and have bred prolifically. There are now an estimated 3.5 million in the UK. As well as damaging trees, they are also to blamed for a reduction in the number of native red squirrels, by carrying a squirrelpox virus which kills red squirrels and by outcompeting them for territory and food. They have no apex predator and effective control is only possible via human intervention.

What we have done

The RFS:

  • has called for government to make research and effective control a priority for forestry. Our policies
  • wholeheartedly supports research into an effective and easy to administer oral contraceptive for grey squirrels. More here 
  • is an active member of the UK Squirrel Accord. More here. 
  • has featured the topic on a number of woodland meetings, passing on Best Practice
  • has linked up with BASC to pilot schemes for regional control of squirrels at our Battram Wood in the National Forest and at our Hockeridge and Pancake Wood 
  • has published articles on squirrel control in our Quarterly Journal of Forestry. If you are a member, log in and go to QJF search here 
  • sells Charles Dutton's excellent The Grey Squirrel Management Handbook at our shop with a 20% discount for RFS members 

Additional information on the management of grey squirrels can be found at Forestry Commission England's website here  

There is also interesting data emerging from the Vincent Wildlife Pine Martens Recovery Project in Wales on the foraging behaviour of squirrels exposed to pine martens. See page 9 of their June 2017 newsletter here


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Fax:01295 670798