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Squirrel Pox in Glenarm Again!  

Members of the Ballygally Biodiversity Group, working with staff on the Glenarm Castle Estate, discovered a sick Red Squirrel in the Estate on the 8th’ August 2016. This squirrel was caught and samples sent to the Veterinary Research Establishment at Moredun Edinburgh.

A client from the Ballygalley Biodiversity Group brought in the red squirrel with crusted erosive lesions on the paws, periocular area, nose and mouth. Wet and dry charcoal swabs were taken from in and around the mouth and a small crust, that fell off one of the lesions, was also obtained. They were submit for squirrel pox testing. Unfortunately, the test results confirmed Squirrel Pox.

In spite of careful nursing and care from a local Vet the sick Red died on Monday 15th’ August 2016. Results confirmed that there was an outbreak of Squirrel Pox as dated Friday 19th’ August 2016.

The last outbreak in Glenarm was in 2011 and killed off Red squirrels in the lower Forest and village.

This disease is carried by Grey squirrels who are unaffected but is fatal to Reds. People in Glenarm and the surrounding area were asked to keep a lookout for any Red Squirrels that were acting strangely e.g. sluggish movements, not running away when approached and appearing to have sores or lesions around their eyes, mouth and paws. They were requested to report any such sightings to any member of the Ballygally Biodiversity Group or ring 07803096729 for an immediate response.  

What is Squirrel Pox?

Squirrel pox, or squirrel fibromatosis, is an awful disease that affects red squirrels. Unlike human chicken pox, squirrel pox is not a herpes virus. It is transmitted via blood, so mostly individuals contract it through biting insect vectors, such as fleas or mosquitoes. The diagnosis for squirrels with pox is most always eventual death and many vets recommend putting the animal down as soon as the disease is diagnosed as it is commonly believed that the infected animal will only get worse.  

Northern Red Squirrels

Northern Red Squirrels - Pox Virus

Squirrel Pox Procedures as Compiled by the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum Jan 2016


Squirrel Pox Procedures Page 45 Red Squirrel Sightings Page 87