Two suspected cases of squirrelpox are being investigated in the Auchencairn and Sandyhills regions of the Solway Coast in Dumfries and Galloway.
Following the retrieval of a sick red squirrel believed to be suffering from squirrelpox by the SSPCA from Auchencairn last week and the sighting of another red squirrel showing squirrelpox symptoms at Sandyhills this week, we are asking people living within these areas to be extra vigilant.
Squirrelpox is a virus carried by grey squirrels without causing them any harm. However, if spread to red squirrels the disease is deadly. Red squirrels develop wet pus-filled lesions on their faces, particularly around the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as on their paws and genitalia. They become unwell and the lesions make it difficult to eat or drink, climb or walk, in almost all cases leading to death within two weeks.
If you live within the area and witness any sick red squirrels or grey squirrels in your garden, please immediately remove any wildlife feeding stations. We also ask that people across the Solway Coast please ensure that all garden feeding stations are regularly cleaned with an anti-viral solution such as Virkon S, which is available to purchase online in tablet and powder form.
If you see a sick red squirrel, either in your garden, or while outdoors exercising, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. SSRS are unable to fully confirm the presence of squirrelpox at this time as the experts that carry out the post mortem investigations are currently not operating due to coronavirus restrictions. However, if you are able to take photos of any sick or dead red squirrels our veterinary partners may be able to offer an informed opinion, especially if backed up by a description of any unusual behaviour.
There is no evidence that squirrelpox can cause any harm to humans, however sensible precautions should be undertaken when approaching any dead or sick wild animal. Please also continue to follow government guidelines regarding access to green spaces at this time.
People across Scotland can continue to support the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project during this time by reporting their sightings of both red and grey squirrels online.