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Grey Squirrels

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

Greysquirrelaction Horizantal

In an impact survey, RFS members named the grey squirrel and the damage it causes to woodland trees as their number one challenge. We have called for government to make research and effective control a priority for forestry and the need for effective  management is spelled out in our policies.

Without a concerted and sustained programme across vulnerable landscapes to control grey squirrels, some landowners and forest managers are turning their backs on broadleaved planting. 

As a member of the UK Squirrel Accord we are backing research into immuno-contraceptives.This five year research project will cost £1.1 million. £94,000 has been committed by Defra and a further £635,000 has been pledged by supporters. The countryside sector needs to raise another £371,000 to ensure that we can develop the drug and a suitable dispensing mechanism that could be brought to market. The RFS has raised more than £40,000 towards this project. To find out more and to donate please follow this link.

Two RFS case studies spell out the costs and time of sustained grey squirrel control. In a 172 ha oak plantation in East Anglia £10,000 a year is spent on dedicated and successful squirrel control – working out at £58 per hectare. If replicated across the 1.123m ha of broadleaved woodland in England and Wales that equates to more than £65m just to keep the grey squirrel problem at bay! In a small woodland in Wales owners choose their trap sites with care wice and sometimes three times a year catching on average 60-80 squirrels.

A presentation giving the latest information on research into the potential for grey squirrel oral contraceptives for fertility control is available here and you can read the UK Squirrel Accord submission to the Envuironmental Audit Committee on invasive species here. 

Our detailed infographic Grey Shadow over our Woodlands looks at the impacts of grey squirrels from the woodland floor.

You can also see the challenges of grey squirrel control in an East Sussex wood below.


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.

The RFS has also 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 Fores -  If you are a member, log in and go to QJF search here and we sell Charles Dutton's excellent The Grey Squirrel Management Handbook at our shop with a 20% discount for RFS members.