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Home > Facts about Grey Squirrels damaging trees

The fact that we do damage to trees is often given as an excuse for killing or trapping us, and this is no different to the reason Red Squirrels were killed and trapped in the early 20th century. However, the level of damage that we do to trees is often exaggerated by conservationists and gamekeepers, as supporting evidence for their killing us. Most commonly it is during the late summer mating season that we strip bark from trees, which can be to give us a lining for our nests, although sometimes the sweet sap beneath the bark does serve as a good emergency food supply.

Key points at a glance

1. Both Grey Squirrels and Red Squirrels strip bark from trees

2. The bark provides good lining for their nests, and the sap beneath can serve as a good emergency food supply when times are hard

3. Stripping bark seldom kills trees, but the damage is often exaggerated as an excuse to kill us

4. Forestry practices can be changed and improved to vastly reduce the problems associated with tree barking

5. Damage to trees can be beneficial to woodland birds and improve woodland biodiversity

Unfortunately, we like our Beech and Sycamore trees, which are sometimes grown for high quality timber, although most of the Beech crop is used for low quality chip board and other similar uses. By stripping the bark off, we can leave the tree open to insect or fungal attacks. Timber cut from the plantations can show discolourations which spoil the look of the wood, or sometimes grow unevenly. Only greed on the part of plantation owners worried about some damage to their high quality timber produce, would result in them wanting to kill us, but unfortunately greed is a common illness among some humans!

However, our activities very seldom actually destroy a tree, so this common argument for killing us doesn't hold in the vast majority of cases. This excuse is mainly used for plantations growing trees for low quality timber and for public woodlands, which are the preserve of conservation organisations. Flaws in the timber in these cases are not important and certainly don't warrant killing us.

Tree barking generally occurs in isolated trees or where trees are thinly spread. There is a correlation between an increase in damage and the increase of space between trees. It is likely the over-thinning of plantations which occurs in the UK which makes this a bit more of a problem than in other countries. In the USA and other countries, where this isn't the case, tree barking damage is very seldom seen.

Another factor is mixing old hardwood with new plantations. This is quite popular where conservation organisations wish to maintain ancient natural woodland. The old hardwood serves to support the squirrel population while the new plantation ends up being a target. There are a number of trees seen as being vulnerable, such as Beech and Sycamore, so using either Conifers or trees which have thick bark such as oak or elm is advisable where possible. Another advantage of opting for Conifers is their attractiveness to the Red Squirrel population, who do well from the seeds on these trees, while with lighter branches, these trees are less suitable for ourselves because we are quite a bit larger and heavier.

Damage that squirrels do to trees is always seen by humans as a problem and never as something good, because they are too focussed on the loss of money and aesthetic quality as they see it. Damage to trees can actually be beneficial according to the Forestry Commission because the areas of the tree which are wounded give habitat for fungi and invertebrates, which are a valuable source of food for woodland birds. On occasions where trees are killed by stripped bark (often Sycamore or Beech, which suffer the most), the dead wood, if left by humans, serves as fantastic habitat for a variety of woodland wildlife.

Continue: Facts about Grey Squirrel's Effect on Bird Populations >

Native by Birth - Condemned by Origin