Squirrels destroy historic forest


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The Forest of Dean is under attack - not from housing plans or over ambitious felling, but squirrels. The mating ritual of grey squirrels that tear bark off trees is scarring ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

The forest's wide range of trees, including oak, beech, chestnut, pine, fir and spruce, are among squirrels' favourites. They strip bark from around the trunk, which means that the tree dies. If it is stripped on one side only, it weakens it until it snaps or allows fungus to set in.

The warm winters have led to more squirrels breeding in the forest, causing more damage. It is estimated that 20,000 squirrels are in the forest.

Grey squirrels were introduced to Britain from America in the 19th century. The grey is bigger and more adaptable than the native red squirrel.

Ben Lennon of The Forestry Commission said: "We don't even bother planting some species in the forest now because it's not worth it - the squirrels just destroy them."

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