Squirrel Pox Discovered at Garron, Co Antrim

Squirrel Pox has recently been confirmed from a red squirrel in the Mid and East Antrim area. One of our native red squirrels, discovered near Garron Point, has been found to have been suffering from the pox virus, a disease that can prove fatal to the red squirrel population. The affected squirrel was found at St Killian’s College near Garron Point on the 26 June, samples were taken, and it was confirmed to have squirrel pox. Attempts were made to treat the infected animal but the unfortunate Red died after one week .The Red Squirrel is one of our most charismatic and important local species, and the mammal has found a stronghold here in the Glens of Antrim. Our native Reds face a continual threat from the non-native Grey Squirrel, which since its introduction has pushed the smaller Red Squirrel from its former range. The Grey Squirrel is a carrier of the pox virus; however unlike the Red Squirrel it is immune and does not suffer the symptoms of the disease.

Massive efforts have been made from groups such as the Glens Red Squirrel Group who have been working tirelessly for years to protect and ensure that the local Red Squirrel population has a home here in the Glens, therefore it is important that all efforts are made to report any suspected animals with the disease, and all measures are taken to minimise its spread. If you are feeding squirrels in your garden you can help prevent the disease by regularly cleaning your feeder and removing any old food as well as reporting any sightings of red and grey squirrels.Red Squirrel with Pox Garron

Biodiversity Officer for the council commented “It is important that this disease is contained as it has the potential to devastate our much adored native Red Squirrels. We would ask members of the public to be vigilant and to report immediately to the squirrel hotline if they come across any squirrel they suspect may be suffering from the disease”

The squirrel pox disease can be similar to myxomatosis in rabbits, and affected animals exhibit lesions around their eyes, mouth and paws. The disease becomes very debilitating for the squirrel and usually results in death within a couple of weeks.

If you do discover any animal that has suspected squirrel pox, please contact the Squirrel Hotline on 08713157376.