As trees lose their leaves it reveals the damage caused by grey squirrels – biting out the growing tops and removing rings of bark – and many owners plot their revenge.

But the charity protecting our diminishing numbers of native red squirrels, has appealed not to include them in any plans to reduce the burgeoning population of introduced greys.

Vanessa Fawcett, from the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, says: “The squirrels that cause problems in gardens, digging up bulbs and barking trees, are the non-native greys.  If you are lucky enough to have native red squirrels in your garden or on your land, please do nothing to drive them away and do all that is possible to encourage them to stay and breed.  There are small pockets of reds in various parts of England,  they are more common in Scotland and Wales and much loved by everyone who sees them.”

The damaging greys were imported as a novelty species from North America in the 1870s.  The first recorded release was at Hanbury Park in Cheshire in 1876.  Herbrand Russell, the 11th Duke of Bedford, introduced them into the park at Woburn Abbey in the 1880s.  He is also credited with releasing them into London’s Regents Park and Richmond Park in Surrey.

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