Royal Forestry Society study highlights significant damage to woodlands from grey squirrels

Grey squirrel
Grey squirrel

Woodland owners are turning away from broadleaved trees such as oak, beech and sweet chestnut because of grey squirrel damage expected to be exacerbated by the decline of ash.
RFS say the findings are "not consistent with the Government policy to put protection of the health of trees and woods at the top of its priorities."

It said: "Compared with tree diseases and deer management, there is very little research, grant aid or support of any practical kind for landowners to control grey squirrels unless in service of protecting red squirrel habitats."
The society added: "Grey squirrels are doing significant and widespread economic and environmental damage to woodlands with serious long term consequences to for their financial viability, landscape, and ecological value. Grant funding planting of broadleaves without committing to a robust long term grey squirrel control regime is not a good use of taxpayers’ money and is not in the public benefit."
"Chalara changes the debate on grey squirrel control. Without Ash as a mitigation against grey squirrel damage, woodland owners are turning away from vulnerable broadleaved species such as Oak, Beech and Sweet Chestnut, which are increasingly difficult and expensive to grow, and planting more conifers.

"Without a more supportive regime for grey squirrel control, there is a risk of a long term decline in production of hardwood timber in the UK."

Those surveyed used shooting, traps and poison to kill squirrels but said  "no single or combination of methods of grey squirrel control is considered very effective. The prospect that the EU will no longer permit use of Warfarin as bait simply makes an unsatisfactory situation worse."
They asked for increased public awareness and understanding of the threat to trees and woods
from grey squirrel damage and the need for controls. Also: 

  • Establishment of a research programme into more effective methods of grey squirrel control and increased understanding of the causes of grey squirrel bark stripping behaviour.
  • Provision of specific financial support to woodland owners for grey squirrel control
    particularly in high risk stands.
  • Support the establishment of grey squirrel control groups which coordinate action across woodland owners at a landscape scale

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