31st Mar 2021, by Keilidh Ewan
Squirrelpox has posed a threat to native red squirrels in southern Scotland since the mid 2000s, and whilst targeted grey squirrel control efforts have been proven to slow the spread of the virus, they cannot prevent its spread - it is therefore important to be vigilant, informed and well prepared. Today we’re taking a look at how monitoring efforts in the Central Lowlands can help to detect the early presence of squirrelpox, and how you can be proactive in reducing its impact.
Squirrelpox was first confirmed in Scotland in 2005, having spread from northern England through non-native grey squirrels that are able to carry the virus unaffected. When spread to red squirrels however, the disease is deadly and is invariably fatal within two weeks.
Just two years after the earliest evidence of the arrival of squirrelpox virus among the grey squirrel population of southern Scotland near Canonbie, red squirrels near Lockerbie succumbed to the first of several documented outbreaks of squirrelpox disease in the region’s red squirrels, ranging from Gatehouse-of-Fleet to Sanquhar, Moffat, Langholm, the Rule Valley near Hawick and the Tweed Valley near Peebles. Thanks to a protection network of dedicated staff, landowners, local groups and volunteers, red squirrels are not only still found in these areas, but are thriving in most of them. Fortunately, an outbreak has yet to be recorded in red squirrels in the Central Lowlands.
If squirrelpox were to take hold ...