Britons should EAT grey squirrels to keep population down and stop them killing trees, says Forestry Commission boss
- Sir Harry Studholme said growing more trees is vital to curb climate change
- But Sir Harry said it was being hindered by the grey squirrel which strip bark
- He said if other control measures fail we should cull them and use them for food
Grey squirrels are killing trees and we should consider eating them to control numbers, according to the Forestry Commission.
Commission chairman Sir Harry Studholme, who is backing the Mail’s Be A Tree Angel Christmas campaign, said growing more trees is vital to curb climate change.
But he said it was being hindered by the grey squirrel – and if other control measures fail we should cull them and use them for food.
Squirrels damage trees by stripping bark, which can lead to deadly fungal infections.
Grey squirrels are killing trees and we should consider eating them to control numbers, according to the Forestry Commission (file photo)
‘Ring barking’ – where all the bark is removed in a circle around a trunk or branch – causes trees to die from that point up.
Sir Harry said: ‘Grey squirrels are very damaging to trees, particularly when they ring-bark oak, beech and sycamore…which can easily kill it. They make the growing of broadleaf timber in the UK virtually impossible’.
Commission chairman Sir Harry Studholme (pictured) said growing more trees is vital to curb climate change
The Forestry Commission has reintroduced a squirrel predator, the pine marten, in the Forest of Dean.
But Sir Harry said if that approach does not succeed we should eat ‘grey squirrels in London restaurants’.
Red squirrels are also known to ‘ring bark’ but to a lesser extent than greys.
There are 2.5million greys in the UK, compared to 140,000 reds, which have been killed off by a disease greys are immune to, squirrel pox.
Sir Harry told environment journal The ENDS report that another destructive species, muntjac deer, which also damages growing trees, might also be hunted for food to control numbers.
Grey squirrels are native to North America, and were first introduced to Britain in the 1870s by aristocrats for their country estates.
Our campaign – organised with the Tree Council – started on November 23 and so far readers have planted or pledged to plant more than 24,500 trees.
Currently just 13 per cent of the UK is woodland – experts say we need to increase this to help combat carbon dioxide emissions.