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Red squirrel diseases: How can you help?

Grey squirrels are a huge threat to the native red squirrels. Whilst being larger and more robust, they also compete more successfully than red squirrels for food. They also carry the squirrel pox virus, which although does not affect the grey squirrel, it can be fatal for red squirrels.

This guide will explain the threats and who to contact if you see an ill squirrel.

Squirrel Pox

An infected squirrel is unable to see or feed properly and will become malnourished. The disease is highly infectious and a squirrel will die within 15 days.

Symptoms include:

  • Scabs or discharge around the eyes, nose, mouth, feet, ears and genitalia.
  • Lesions or swelling
  • Skin ulcers
  • Increasing lethargy as the disease progresses
Red squirrels are susceptible to various diseases that threaten their population Credit: Moredun Research Institute

What to do if you find a red squirrel with symptoms that could be squirrel pox:

People should report infected squirrels immediately to a red squirrel charity Credit: C.Bruemmer

What you can do to help prevent the spread of squirrel pox:

  • If you are feeding a red squirrel, make sure that any feeders are kept as clean as possible to prevent the spread of disease. Click here for a guide on feeding squirrels.
  • If both red and grey squirrels are seen using the same feeder, stop feeding immediately
Squirrel feeders should be kept clean to prevent the spread of disease Credit: PA


Caused by a parasitic protoazoan which lives in the gut, it can be caught by red squirrels eating at feeders which harbour the parasite.

To help reduce the chances of red squirrels catching this disease, it is advised that squirrel feeders are cleaned regularly.

For more information on how to help red squirrels, click here.