Outbreaks of lethal squirrelpox virus in red squirrels in the North of England and Scotland

Outbreaks of squirrelpox virus in red squirrels have recently been reported in Dumfries and Galloway in southern Scotland (Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Daily Record), and Northumberland¬† (The Journal) and Penrith (ITV) in the north of England. Grey squirrels carry the virus without obvious signs, but red squirrels that become infected develop lesions to their faces, limbs and bodies and usually die within two weeks; this can lead to a decline or loss of local populations. If people see sick red squirrels, they should report them to local or regional red squirrel groups (see Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Red Squirrels Northern England), and in areas of overlap between red and grey squirrels, it is advisable not to put out food to minimise the possibility of the virus being transmitted from grey squirrels to red squirrels.

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