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Squirrel pox ~ by Lewis

Squirrel pox

As reported in the woodlands blog last year, the red squirrel population in the UK is under threat. One of the threats is the parapox virus. This virus seemingly does little harm to grey squirrels (who act as a reservoir of infection); but red squirrels, once infected, develop skin ulcers,swellings around the eyes, mouth and genitals; it is not dissimilar in its effects to the myxomatosis virus in rabbits. An infected red squirrel will die within 15 days.

 

The first reports of this disease in red squirrels were from East Anglia in the 1970s. Whilst its spread has been documented across the U.K., there have been no reports of infected red squirrels in Scotland until now. Earlier this month, a diseased animal was examined in the South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital (Dumfries), and Edinburgh vets subsequently confirmed squirrel pox.

People are asked not to encourage the meeting of the two types of squirrels, for example through the use of feeders; and to be on the look-out for, and report red or grey squirrels that are ill.

Posted in: Flora & Fauna, Pests & Diseases ~ On: 17 May, 2007

13 comments so far

Bob
6 July, 2007

I would disagree about the use of feeders. Providing that the feeders are cleaned regularly, and that any greys which turn up are caught and killed, then feeders (or bird tables) are a useful means of detecting and removing grey squirrels. On Anglesey there is a feed hopper which is an interesting example of this. It can be viewed online at http://www.redsquirrels.info/squirrelcam.html

Lynne
15 April, 2008

We are having a problem with the virus in native grey squirrels here in the US. I don’t see why you need to kill the grey squirrels. If the virus is already there and in the environment than it makes no sense to me to kill the greys. The virus is shed through dry scabs from lesions that can land on the ground and survive for months to years. The reds will eventually encounter the virus. They will develope an immunity over time. I realize that it is wiping out many of the red squirrels, but the virus is here in the US too and our greys are dying from it too. Our greys are supposed to have an immunity to the virus but it is killing them as well…explain that.??? I really think the research should be in finding a vaccine instead of killing the greys. You sound like our Fish & Game here in the US. Every time there is a problem animal the answer is to kill it rather than to let nature takes its course. Animals like humans have to adapt and nature has a way of helping this. The reds will develope an immunity well before they die out. Killing isn’t the answer!

How did the grey squirrel arrive in the UK? | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
6 June, 2008

[…] greys out of one area and the neighbouring colonies just move in.  Grey squirrels also carry the squirrel pox virus which, although it doesn’t seem to harm the greys, is a serious infection for red […]

Tony Davison
3 August, 2008

I read with interest some of the comments left on your site and am amazed at the ‘pro grey squirrel lobby’. The grey was introduced by misguided Victorian individuals without any regard to future consequences. Should we also accept the American crayfish in such a philanthropic manner, as is suggested by one of your non-English contributors? All to the detriment of our ‘accepted’ native species before anyone digresses into philosophical (and ridiculous) ego tripping about that which is native, etc. Have for instance your ‘PG’ contributors watched, as I have, beeches being ringed or nests being pulled out with both eggs and young taken by this voracious predator? As someone once wrote ‘The grey squirrel is a tree rat with good pr’. Sorry, but the ‘spin’ on this one has worn a trifle thin and grey visitors on my land, or that of my friends or neighbours do not qualify ‘estate benefits’. They are however, provided with a one way ticket. Middle non ‘PCPG’ England still exists and long may it do so.

Rohan Thomson
18 February, 2009

did you know that there is also a squirrel that is purple?
its amazing

juf
18 February, 2009

I read with interest some of the comments left on your site and am amazed at the ‘pro grey squirrel lobby’. The grey was introduced by misguided Victorian individuals without any regard to future consequences. Should we also accept the American crayfish in such a philanthropic manner, as is suggested by one of your non-English contributors? All to the detriment of our ‘accepted’ native species before anyone digresses into philosophical (and ridiculous) ego tripping about that which is native, etc. Have for instance your ‘PG’ contributors watched, as I have, beeches being ringed or nests being pulled out with both eggs and young taken by this voracious predator? As someone once wrote ‘The grey squirrel is a tree rat with good pr’. Sorry, but the ’spin’ on this one has worn a trifle thin and grey visitors on my land, or that of my friends or neighbours do not qualify ‘estate benefits’. They are however, provided with a one way ticket. Middle non ‘PCPG’ England still exists and long may it do so.

Cara
25 October, 2010

believe me, ulcer is quite painful and its symptoms are not very good;~`

spence
20 February, 2011

Before people jump to either one side or the other i think it is often helpful to find out a little more about the situation and the link below is a good, unbiased look at both the red and grey in the UK.

http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/questions_answers_squirrels.html#vulgarisdec

Ultimately humans are responsible for the demise of the red (and any number of other species) through first releasing the grey, then removing large areas of habitat in favour of less useful habitats such as Sitka Spruce plantations (a species of tree of little use to the red Link:http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-5MJLGM )and finally through poor agricultural and land management techniques.
Thankfully some are now looking for positive ways to help – simply killing (or cleansing i think it is sometimes known as??!) one species to keep it in check or promote another smacks a little of some of the worst traits of the human race and i feel is not something to replicate or endorse.
Instead its pleasing to see that work like the vaccine for SQPV has shown some promising results – although as the link:
http://naturalengland.etraderstores.com/NaturalEnglandShop/product.aspx?ProductID=3e3f4c98-3163-4391-836a-dd75bed6303e
points out in the research information notes by natural England.
‘Work completed since this contract has illustrated the significance of this viral disease in the demise of the red squirrel and emphasised the need to reduce its impact. The development of a vaccine could be an important tool in tackling this problem, but the costs of developing a vaccine with no commercial potential are very significant and well beyond the reach of the conservation agencies alone’
New fund raiser for red squirrel vaccine anyone?

amy
19 January, 2012

Its not the grey squirrels fault that they were brought into the UK is it?? NO!! Its STUPID muggles being stupid as always. The Red squirrels arent actually native to the UK as they were brought here, they just came here before the greys. If you really want to get rid of them, send them back to their original country, they should not need to die because of some stupid muggle not realising that they could breed and the whole grey squirrel population take over, STUPID MUGGLES!!!!!!

Twinkleberry (aka brother of Nutkin)
19 January, 2012

not that we want to be ‘squirrelist’ or xenophobic or …..

How did the grey squirrel arrive in the UK? | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
5 February, 2012

[…] squirrels also carry the squirrel pox virus which, although it doesn’t seem to harm the greys, is a serious infection for red […]

Reece
2 July, 2012

Lynne, red squirrels are not immune to squirrel pox but grey squirrels are, and can act as carriers. That is the situation over here. A different environment abroad might be responsible for greys getting the virus. They have been known to catch it over here when put under stress from things such as habitat loss and food shortages.

Red squirrels are not going to become immune on their own. A vaccine is a decade away at the moment and they could be extinct if we don’t cull the greys in the meantime.

Even without squirrel pox, greys are still a threat to reds. Greys out compete reds for food and the reds would still become extinct through competition alone. Squirrel pox is not a problem in Scotland, and has only recently been found in Ireland, and the decline of the red has happened, just at a slower rate.

amy,
red squirrels ARE native to the UK. Plenty of evidence shows that the reds have been here since the end of the last ice age, making them native.
The grey squirrel problem was started by humans and it needs to be sorted out by humans. It isn’t the animals’ fault they are over here, but we are not trying to punish the animals, we are trying to solve the problem.

To all the people calling culling “racist”, you are just using the word massively out of context. It’s become a word people use to look morally superior, particularly in cases where it’s completely irrelevant. Anthropomorphic nonsense contributes nothing useful to the discussion, other than providng evidence that maybe the lunatics are trying to take over the asylum.

Grey squirrels must be culled in order to save the reds. There is no alternative. Doing nothing is not an option. Sadly, some people still hold the warped view of “animal rights” coming above conservation.

Sam
22 June, 2016

this is what my son is learning at school and it is a wonderful website

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