Fife Squirrelpox Update


In April, the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies confirmed the first death of a red squirrel from the squirrelpox virus north of Scotland’s Central Belt, having conducted tests on a dead squirrel found near Dunfermline in Fife.

Squirrelpox is a virus carried by grey squirrels which, whilst not affecting them, can be lethal when passed to native red squirrels. Symptoms include ulcers, scabs and weeping lesions on the face, paws and genitalia, all of which can prevent reds from eating, drinking or moving. As a result, squirrelpox is usually fatal within two weeks and an outbreak can cause local populations to crash. The first known outbreak of squirrelpox in Scotland occurred in 2007 near Lockerbie and since then the disease has arisen in various red squirrel populations across south Scotland. However, this was the first time that a case has been confirmed north of Scotland’s Central Belt and it’s arrival poses a major threat to Scotland’s more northerly red squirrels.

Fortunately, no further cases have been detected north of the central belt in the last month. However, we are asking Fife residents to remain vigilant and to do the following:

In the meantime Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, along with research and operational partners and stakeholders, are undergoing ongoing discussions as to how best face this evolving threat to red squirrels. This is being facilitated by the government convened Scottish Squirrel Group, who will be hosting a series of working meetings to evaluate national pox monitoring strategies in the central belt and how best to effectively prioritise these moving forwards. Additionally, the Eastern Lowlands Red Squirrel Group and their local partners on the ground, including the volunteer led Fife Red Squirrel Group, have been stepping up grey squirrel control in key areas across Fife along with strategic monitoring for further spread of the disease. Anybody based in Fife and interested in getting involved can email, or join the volunteer Fife Red Squirrel Group:


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