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Potential cases of squirrel pox have been reported in Formby

Several potential cases of Squirrel Pox have been reported in Formby recently. The Squirrel Pox Virus is usually fatal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels are carriers of the infection and can spread the disease to red squirrels. Greys have developed immunity to the disease having been exposed to the virus for many years. In sharp contrast, the mortality rate for untreated infected red squirrels in the wild appears to be 100%, most dying within 15 days of being infected. If caught early enough a vet may be able to treat the squirrel but success is rare.

Transmission of the virus can spread through contact with the infected lesions or contaminated crusts. Most pox viruses are highly resistant to drying, which allows crusts to remain infectious for long periods of time. It is believed that the virus can be transferred by contaminated feeders, which is why red squirrel preservation organisations often recommend that feeders are disinfected daily. Traps and equipment used for catching greys in areas also occupied by red squirrels should also be disinfected.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) have issued the warning and are asking members of the public to be vigilant and report any sick or deceased squirrels. Symptoms of pox include lesions or scabs around the eyes, mouth and paws and the squirrel will appear very lethargic. This disease is fatal to red squirrels.

Feeders create a source of infection as pox virus is readily transmitted between squirrels using the feeders, so it is best to remove them completely until there is a better idea of the extent of the situation. If you have to leave your squirrel feeders out, please disinfect them more regularly.

Squirrel pox virus is carried by grey squirrels but they do not suffer from any symptoms of the disease. It only takes 1 grey squirrel carrying the virus to introduce it to a red squirrel population.

If you see a grey squirrel or a sick red squirrel please report it to LWT by calling 07590745862 or 0151 920 3769

With your help we hope we can prevent a repeat of the devastating outbreak we had 10 years ago. The red squirrel population in Merseyside and Lancashire has been steadily increasing since the devastating impact of the squirrel pox virus outbreak in 2008, which saw 80% of the population wiped out. Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of the volunteers and project officers for the Wildlife Trust, the population recovered quickly and has now increased to almost 90% of the pre-pox numbers.

To find out more, please visit:

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