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National Forest Company Launches Grey Squirrel Strategy

Wednesday, 4th February 2015

The National Forest Company (NFC) has launched a new strategy to address the threat posed by the increasing grey squirrel population in The National Forest by encouraging more collaboration between landowners.

Grey squirrels particularly damage broadleaf woodland aged between ten and 40 years old, and as the first trees to be planted in The National Forest took root in 1991/2, this makes The National Forest woodlands highly vulnerable.

Squirrel damage leaves the bark stripped from the tree stem and branches. This permanently damages the tree and the wounded area can provide access points for other pests and diseases or rot.

Grey squirrels thrive in lowland broadleaved woodland, such as The National Forest, and frequently target oak. This is one of the main tree species planted in the mixed woodlands of The National Forest, along with silver birch, field maple and willow – also favoured by these prolific mammals.

Simon West, Head of Forestry for the NFC said: “Grey squirrels cause millions of pounds worth of damage each year throughout Great Britain 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.

“Managing squirrel numbers to sustainable levels in order to protect our woodlands is a collective responsibility, and our new strategy highlights the work we will do with our landowners and site managers to achieve this. We will support grey squirrel management through advice, training, collaboration and funding, where possible.”

Simon West added: “It is vital that grey squirrel management is part of an overall woodland management plan, carried out over a prolonged period of time and not just in response to specific problems.”

The NFC is working with Forest Research on the long-term sustainable management of grey squirrels and recognises the importance of continually developing sound scientific evidence to develop new control methods as well as understanding grey squirrel behaviour.

The NFC strategy is part of a national response to the problem of grey squirrels in woodland. Last year saw the signing of the Squirrel Accord and Defra/Forestry Commission’s updated policy of grey squirrel management was launched in December.

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