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Grey Squirrels

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

In a survey in 2021, RFS members named the grey squirrel and the damage it causes to woodland trees as their number one challenge. We have called for the Government to make research and effective control a priority for forestry. Without a sustained programme to control grey squirrels, some landowners are turning their backs on broadleaved planting.

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

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. Another £371,000 is still needed to ensure that we can develop the drug and a suitable dispensing mechanism. The RFS has so far raised more than £40,000 towards this project. To find out more and donate please click here.


RFS case studies spell out the costs and time of sustained grey squirrel control

- In an oak plantation in East Anglia, £10,000 a year is spent on squirrel control – working out at £58 per hectare. If replicated across all the broadleaved woodland in England and Wales that would cost more than £65m! Read more.

- In a small woodland in Wales, owners choose their trap sites with care, catching on average 60-80 squirrels a year. Read more.

- See the challenges of grey squirrel control in an East Sussex wood below.




Uk Squirrel Accord video:  Bark stripping damage to trees - issues and solutions 

Research into the potential for grey squirrel oral contraceptives

The UK Squirrel Accord submission to the Environmental Audit Committee on invasive species

Grey Shadow over our Woodlands - look at the impact of grey squirrels from the woodland floor

The Grey Squirrel Management Handbook by Charles Dutton is available in our shop with a 20% discount for RFS members.

Members can serach for articles on grey squirrels in our Quarterly Journal of Forestry