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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Lusty squirrels cause tree damage
Grey squirrel
There are more than 20,000 grey squirrels in the Forest of Dean
An area of ancient Gloucestershire woodland is being damaged by thousands of lovestruck squirrels, forestry experts have warned.

It is believed the rodents are tearing bark off the trees in the Forest of Dean in a bid to impress mates.

This can kill trees or lead to fungus attacking the weaker exposed parts.

"We don't even bother planting some species... now because it's not worth it - the squirrels just destroy them," a Forestry Commission spokesman said.

The grey squirrels, which currently number up to 100,000 in the Forest, strip the bark away from trunks and some of the higher branches of younger trees.

Some of the branches are bare on the trees and a lot of leaves are brown already.
Ben Lennon, Forestry Commission spokesman
Ben Lennon, from the Forestry Commission, said: "There are several theories why the squirrels rip off the bark, but the most likely one is that it is linked to mating and the squirrels are trying to impress females."

This kind of damage occurs during the breeding season each year, but Mr Lennon expects the damage to be especially severe this year.

A warm and wet spring led to a glut of autumn fruit which helped boost the squirrel population.

"If you walk around the forest at the moment you can start to see the damage that has been caused so far this season," he said.

"Some of the branches are bare on the trees and a lot of leaves are brown already."




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