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Management of grey squirrels

Home research Management of grey squirrels




Since their introduction into Britain between 1876 and the 1920’s, grey squirrels have spread rapidly, gradually displacing the native red squirrel through a combination of competition for food and transmission of the squirrel pox virus. Grey squirrels now occur in most of England and Wales, and in central and south-east Scotland.

Stripped bark of tree



Grey squirrels are extremely destructive in woodlands, stripping bark from the main stem and branches of trees. Typically beech and sycamore trees are most severely damaged, however serious damage can occur on a wide range of tree species, including oak, birch, larch, pines and Norway spruce. Bark wounds can result in deformation, stain and decay of the timber and serious wounds can kill the tree. Squirrel damage has now become a serious disincentive to landowners trying to establish new woodland.

Research objectives

The overall aims of this research programme include:

  • Investigating the impact of grey squirrels on woodlands and the reasons for bark stripping behaviour
  • Supporting the development of novel control strategies
  • Promoting and supporting best practice management for the control of grey squirrels and their impacts

Specific objectives included:

  • Investigating the motives for bark stripping behaviour and the factors affecting selection for particular trees. This is a collaborative project with Southampton University:
  • Investigate the impact of pine martens on numbers and behaviour of grey squirrels
  • Develop novel approaches for monitoring squirrel populations and their impact
  • Support the development of novel methods of population control including new trapping methods, contraception, gene editing and natural predation
  • Investigating alternative methods of damage limitation such as stand management
  • Support evidence based policy development at national and regional levels
  • Provide practical advice to the forest industry and the general public to  promote best practice

Links to further information

Grey squirrel publications

Manufacturers and suppliers of equipment for grey squirrel control

Research on contraception for grey squirrel control:

UK Squirrel Accord

Red Squirrel conservation:

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels | Scottish Wildlife Trust

Where to find red squirrels – Red Squirrel Survival Trust (


Research Status
Research Groups
Forest genetics
Vertebrate Ecologist
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