Country: Nature Notes

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The Independent Culture
GREY SQUIRRELS - a pest in any season - are now in their most destructive period. In the next few weeks they will eat the eggs of songbirds; in May they will set about their annual orgy of barking hardwood trees, which they will go on chewing until July.

On young trees, they start gnawing at the foot of the trunk and on the top of the roots, where they join the main stem, but they also go for older trees near the crown. Beech and sycamore are favourites; extensive bark-stripping will kill the tree altogether; even minor assaults will disfigure it for life. Some people believe that the animals chew bark for food, attacking trees when the sap is at its sweetest. Others consider the gnawing a form of territorial marking.

Either way, it is highly damaging, and costs foresters a small fortune every year.