News Summary: Squirrel boom frustrates farmers

NUTS ABOUT FRUIT: A mild winter and a bumper crop of nuts have caused an explosion in the squirrel population in parts of the country, besieging fruit growers with their ravenous appetites, littering highways as roadkill, and keeping pest control experts busy.

SQUIRRELY PLAGUE: In addition to eating up cash crops like apples, squirrels can also prevent future harvests by "girdling" trees _ eating away a band of bark around the trunk, causing it to die.

BOOM AND BUST: Biologists know squirrel populations have rare but periodic "eruptions," when conditions coincide to produce abundant foods that fuel the fast-reproducing animals.