From Wildlife Extra:
November 2013: Red squirrels could be capable of building up a resistance to the devastating disease squirrel pox that has decimated their numbers, scientists have found.
A study by the University of Liverpool has found that the red squirrel population along the Sefton coastline in Merseyside seems to be recovering from a serious outbreak of squirrel pox in 2008. Along with Lancashire Wildlife Trust researchers have been monitoring the red squirrel population at the Seaforth Coastal reserve, which had fallen by 85 percent as a result of the outbreak.
Dr Julian Chantrey, from the Institute of Integrative Biology, said: “We have had a unique opportunity to study the dynamics of the squirrelpox disease. So far, our findings indicate that they are recovering from the disease which affected them so severely in 2008. There are even indications that a few of the surviving squirrels appear to have antibody to the virus, which would suggest that they have recovered from infection in the past.
“More recently, we have identified a red squirrel that recovered naturally from squirrel pox and was released back into the population. However, at this stage, there is insufficient evidence to say whether there is significant resistance in the population as a whole to prevent another pox outbreak.”
Squirrel pox is a potentially fatal disease which affects red squirrel populations in the UK and is thought that to be a significant factor in the decline of the red squirrel population. It is a member of the pox virus family and is passed to red squirrels from grey squirrels, which rarely die from the disease. The disease causes scabby lesions on the squirrel’s body, including the eyes, ears,and fore and hind paws, and suppresses the immune system.
- Red Squirrel recovery (ntpressoffice.wordpress.com)
- Red squirrels show pox resistance (bbc.co.uk)
- Red squirrels showing resistance to poxvirus (theguardian.com)
- VIDEO: Testing red squirrels for pox resistance (bbc.co.uk)
- Red squirrels showing resistance to poxvirus (oddonion.com)
- Perthshire comeback for red squirrels (scotsman.com)
- Red squirrels under threat from humans (theguardian.com)
- Belfast Zoo celebrates red squirrel breeding success (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)