National Forest launches strategic approach to grey squirrel control

The National Forest Company (NFC) has launched a Grey Squirrel Strategy to address the threat posed by the increasing grey squirrel population to the millions of young trees it has planted since the early 1990s.

Image: RFS
Image: RFS

NFC head of forestry Simon West said: "Grey squirrels cause millions of pounds worth of damage each year and given the age of many of our woodlands, The National Forest is particularly vulnerable.

"Grey squirrels therefore threaten the potential for the forest to support local jobs by reducing the economic viability of the timber."

He added that, working with landowners and site managers, "We will support grey squirrel management through advice, training, collaboration and funding, where possible. It is vital that grey squirrel management is part of an overall woodland management plan, carried out over a prolonged period of time."

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) has given its support to the strategy, and says it looks forward to collaborating with other owners to protect woodlands in the region from damage. The RFS's Battram Wood was among the first to be established within the National Forest's boundaries, with most trees planted in 1999-2001.

Its chief executive Simon Lloyd said: "The National Forest is the perfect location to establish collaborative projects to control grey squirrels because so much of the woodland there is at a similar vulnerable stage of development.

"We believe grey squirrel control needs to be part of overall management in areas where they threaten the viability of woodlands, and that control will only be effective if there is a regional approach."

The strategy points out that greys "are valued by many people as part of our wildlife and are often the only species seen on a woodland walk", and concedes, "it is very unlikely that grey squirrels could be eradicated within the Forest due to our permeable boundaries".

It adds that conservation of native red squirrels "is not an objective" within the forest given its unsuitability as a habitat for them.

Covering over 500 sq km of of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, the National Forest was conceived to link the two ancient forests of Charnwood on its eastern fringe with Needwood Forest to its west. Already over 8 million trees, both broadleaf and conifer, have been planted.

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