A charity is appealing for the public’s help to gain evidence of damage caused to trees by destructive bark-stripping grey squirrels.

According to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST), high-value trees such as oak, beech, hornbeam and sweet chestnut are being targeted and profoundly damaged by non-native grey squirrels at an alarming rate and at huge cost.

The charity is appealing to woodland owners, managers and the public to identify and report evidence of the intensive bark stripping.

Grey squirrels start by stripping a small tester patch of bark from a tree before they return to strip the bark from all areas of the tree to access the sap in the living tissues, therefore exposing the tree to infection from pests and pathogens.

Bark stripping occurs primarily between April and August and grey squirrels target young broadleaved trees, mostly 10–40 years of age, and repeat the damage year after year if their densities are high and unmanaged.

READ MORE: Grey squirrels ‘remain top threat to broadleaf woodland’

A recent report by UK Squirrel Accord signatories estimates the annual cost of grey squirrel damage to trees in England and Wales to be at least £37 million.

Grey squirrels also pose a threat to the survival of the UK’s native red squirrel population by carrying fatal infections and disease.

Mark Henderson of RSST said: “Following on from DEFRA’s Plant Health Week, we are asking foresters and the public to get involved and share evidence with us of grey squirrel damage to trees in their area.

“Tackling this issue is hugely important for the longevity of beautiful woodlands and the biodiversity they support for generations to come, especially as millions more trees are planted.

“We would be very grateful to anyone who is able to share details – both now and in the future – as sadly this is not be a problem that can be solved overnight.

“Support from local communities is incredibly valuable and identifying bark stripping damage can be done while on woodland walks or carrying out woodland management tasks.”

Members of the public are being asked to help by emailing photographic or video evidence of either bark stripping in progress or of the subsequent damage to info@squirrelaccord.uk.

To identify grey squirrel damage, look for sections of bark ripped off trees that exposes the wood beneath. Bark chippings can often be found at the base of trees with fresh damage.

This story originally appeared in the News and Star.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £75 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link: https://www.forestryjournal.co.uk/subscribe/

Thanks – and stay safe.