South Scotland

Squirrelpox spreads along Solway coast

Squirrelpox Image copyright Lisa Fuller
Image caption Cases of squirrelpox have been confirmed extending along the Solway coast

Emergency outbreak response measures are being taken to try to stop the spread of a virus which is deadly for red squirrels across southern Scotland.

It comes after confirmation of a number of squirrelpox cases along the Solway coast.

Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels has urged the public to remove wildlife feeding equipment and report sightings.

Meanwhile, it is trapping and killing greys in the area to try to stop the outbreak.

Squirrelpox - which is carried by grey squirrels but is deadly only to reds - has been in the region for more than a decade.

Outbreaks are quite common but the area currently affected is not known to have suffered one before.

Image copyright Steve Gardner
Image caption Experts said red squirrel populations could recover from an outbreak

At least 15 red squirrels have died as a result of squirrelpox in recent weeks with more sick animals spotted in an area running from Palnackie to Carsethorn.

Dr Stephanie Johnstone, SSRS conservation officer, said: "With support of local volunteers from the Solway Forests Red Squirrel Network, we have deployed emergency squirrelpox outbreak response measures.

"Grey squirrels are being removed from the area through live trapping and humane dispatch.

"We know that when grey squirrel numbers are kept low, red squirrel populations can recover following the devastation of an outbreak.

"Any captured sick red squirrels will be taken to a veterinary clinic in Castle Douglas where they will be assessed and either treated or euthanised."

'Very distressing'

The public has been asked to help prevent further spread of the disease by refraining from feeding wildlife in their gardens while the outbreak is ongoing

Julia Gallagher, who volunteers with SFRS network, said "The arrival of this disease in our area is very distressing.

"I have seen too many cases now and we need to try and combat the spread of this outbreak.

"One way people can help is by reporting sick red squirrels and healthy greys to us when they are seen."

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