Deadly squirrelpox virus outbreak across the Solway coast

Squirrelpox is spreading fast along the Solway coast, affecting the population of red squirrels in the area.

The virus is carried by grey squirrels - they are not affected by the disease but are capable of contaminating native reds who are not immune.

In recent weeks a number of red squirrels have died as a result of thedisease. Those with pox resemble rabbits with Myxomatosis.

A list of symptoms include:

  • Skin ulcers

  • Lesions, and scabs.

  • Swelling and discharge from the lesions/scabs near the eyes, mouth, feet, and genitalia.

  • Lethargic and shivering

Within two weeks, the squirrel dies from the virus.

Credit: ITV Border

Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels (SSRS) say wildlife feeder boxes and garden bird tables increase the risk of squirrelpox transmission as they bring squirrels of both species into closer contact with one another.

While the virus is initially spread by grey squirrels, once it has entered the red squirrel population, red-to-red transmission is more likely to happen.

People living in areas with pox outbreaks are advised to refrain from feeding the wildlife.

Those living in outbreak-free areas are asked by the SSRS to regularly disinfect feeders with an anti-viral solution to prevent break-outs.

Grey squirrel numbers have increased in Dumfries and Galloway in recent years. Credit: PA

Dumfries and Galloway is known to have a large population of reds, but greys have moved into the area in recent years and started to widely populate.

Grey squirrels were first introduced into the UK in 1876 in Henbury Park, Cheshire. They are native to North-America.