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Grey Squirrels

 

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

Grey Squirrel Web

RFS members have named the grey squirrel and the damage it causes to woodland trees as their number one challenge.

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 aims to raise £40,000 towards this project. To find out more and to donate please follow this link.

Two case studies, which can be downloaded right, spell out the costs  and time of sustained grey squirrel control. In a 172 ha oak plantations 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! 

Our detailed infographic Grey Shadow over our Woodlands, downloadable right, 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.

What we have done

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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