The Red Squirrel population in Bangor and Anglesey is under threat after an outbreak of the deadly squirrel pox virus, Red Squirrel Trust Wales have confirmed.

Lab tests have confirmed that a dead red squirrel that was found in Treborth Gardens in Bangor, had the highly infectious squirrel pox virus. Because red squirrels can move between the mainland and Anglesey there is now a chance that the infection will reach the island.

In the last two weeks there has been a sharp decline in numbers of red squirrels seen in Treborth and Faenol woodlands which would suggest that a major outbreak of squirrel pox is underway.

The Squirrel Pox Virus, which is often carried by grey squirrels, is usually fatal to red squirrels, if caught early enough a vet may be able to treat the squirrel but success is rare. The virus can spread through contact with the infected lesions or contaminated crusts.

In red squirrels, the virus causes skin ulcers, lesions, and scabs. It can also cause swelling and discharge (from the lesions/scabs) near the eyes, mouth, feet, and genitalia. Additionally, squirrels that fall victim to the disease often become increasingly lethargic as it progresses.

No Risk To Humans

There is no known risk to humans from squirrel pox but washing your hands after handling any animal is advisable as other pathogens may potentially cause you harm.

Holly Peek, from Red Squirrels Wales said: “W need everyone to be looking out for it, Squirrel Pox has great potential to cause significant harm to the populations of red squirrels, both on the mainland and Anglesey so we need to nip it in the bud”

How You Can Help

You can help Red Squirrel Wales by:

1. Reporting dead or dying red squirrels; including road deaths as soon as possible.

2. Clean feeders regularly and apply an anti-viral wash/spray or rinse well with warm soapy water.

3. It may be wise to cease feeding red squirrels altogether, as at this time of year there are plenty of wild foods available. Alternatively, you can simply scatter small amounts of food on the ground so that animals are no longer congregating at a wooden feeder, but still visit your garden.

4. Please look carefully at red squirrels visiting your garden, or that you may see in woodlands elsewhere, and report any that seem sluggish and/or that have scabs, blisters or grazes on the feet, nose, mouth and/or eyes. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ANY INFECTED RED SQUIRRELS ARE REMOVED as they are a huge source of infection to other animals.

5. Google image search using the term ‘squirrel pox virus’ will provide you with pictures of infections – these are quite graphic.

6. You can contact Red Squirrels Wales at: mail@redsquirrels.info