WHEN WE walked into this isolated and rarely-visited copse in a famous country park we were not prepared for the shock of what we found. It remains the most remarkable, and brutal, discovery I’ve ever made in a tree. Initially it was also a mystery. Take a look at the image of the squirrel and ask yourself how it got in a hole in a tree seven feet off the ground; how it died; why it was there. The park itself is a clue. It is one of the most beautiful and best managed in Britain, perhaps in all of Europe. The staff looking after it are highly qualified, highly specialist and absolutely resolute in maintaining standards of the cultivated gardens and livestock, the pastures and waterways, and the wild fauna and flora. The dead squirrel was in natural hole in the tree and appeared to have been trying to get out. Maybe, we thought, it got to the hole head-first, climbed inside, turned round and got stuck trying to get out. And then starved. Except it looked very fresh, its fur still glossy and there was no smell, no putrefaction. It had not been there long. Nor was the hole so small that it would easily get stuck, and anyway it would have had to climb down through it in the first place. So maybe it was put there – by a human. But why? Then I remembered what mole-catchers do, or used to. They hang the moles they catch on the nearest wall or barbed wire fence – both to deter other moles (by the smell) and to give visual evidence of their skill and industry to their employer. In this case such a squirrel might well deter others, not just from that tree, but from the copse itself. But who…? The further clue was higher up a nearby tree. A rusty, well-used, spring trap was screwed there, probably baited with something rodents love: peanut butter. The squirrel had been trapped and killed and whoever did it put its body in the tree. I have my doubts that under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, which is against causing unnecessary suffering to animals, spring traps are allowed in the hands ordinary people. Indeed there was a successful prosecution on those lines under the Act in 2010 which is worth reading here. But different rules may well apply to the trained and qualified foresters who work on such estates and a major country park with a massive squirrel population has a real problem. They are pests and can cause massive damage to crops and other wildlife. The forester was doing his job. Nature, life, can be hard and shaken by the sight we walked on into a setting sun with only these pictures to tell the tale.