They can look cute, but they are most definitely crafty creatures.

With the weariness of the besieged, I am waging a battle with grey squirrels.

We are surrounded by woodland well populated with squirrels but remarkably it is the first time that they have strayed into the farmyard and orchard in the 30 years or so I have lived here.

What I have learned over these past few months is that they are smart, very smart, and vicious in tooth and claw. They can work things out, digging up recently-planted bulbs, raiding the bird feeder, generally figuring out how to get exactly what they are after.

They are expert climbers and, although they are known for stashing away nuts for their hibernation, it is our apples they are interested in.

If they just helped themselves to a few and ate what they took I wouldn’t mind but instead they nibble away on as many as possible, taking small bites before tossing aside and moving on to the next apple.

Squirrels are a destructive menace, stripping bark off some of the tree saplings we planted last year for a Glastir scheme.

The Welsh government has ambitious tree planting targets in order to meet its net zero goals and is proposing that every farmer who joins the new Sustainable Farming Scheme should have 10% of their land covered with trees before they can receive support payments.

Farmers are understandably resistant to planting productive land with trees, land that they use to produce food, so that in itself may be a barrier to the government’s ambitions, but uncontrolled populations of grey squirrels could also play a part in thwarting that vision.

Trees planted using grant funding are being systematically destroyed by grey squirrels. Bark stripping damage is estimated to cost the UK timber industry £14 million or so a year.

The government does have a grey squirrel management plan but that doesn’t propose a pan-Wales cull.

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Greys are the ultimate survivors, producing two litters a year, and are capable of re-establishing a colony in an area that has been cleared of squirrels within six weeks.

If the squirrels that have taken up residence here are breeding, the huge effort we have put into nurturing our saplings in the last year could well have been in vain.