Fatal to red squirrels
Squirrel pox, a disease fatal to red squirrels, has been confirmed in Tollymore Forest Park in Northern Ireland. You should report any sightings of red squirrels showing signs of the disease immediately to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) wildlife team or a member of the NI Squirrel Forum.
How to report a case
Sick red squirrels will appear lethargic, approachable, with painful sores on their faces and paws.
Unfortunately there appears little natural resistance to the virus within the local population and sick squirrels tend to die within 10 to 14 days.
The disease itself does not affect people or domestic pets.
You can report a suspected case of the disease at:
If you have squirrels entering your garden to feed at bird feeders, either remove these or clean them daily to reduce the spread of the virus.
Squirrel pox is carried by the introduced grey squirrel, which appears to be immune to the disease.
Visible symptoms of squirrels with pox virus include wet, discharging lesions or scabs around the eyes, mouth, feet and genitalia. Squirrels generally become increasingly lethargic as the disease progresses.
The first confirmed incident in Northern Ireland was in 2011.
More useful links
- Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum
- Tollymore Red Squirrel Group
- Forests - there are over 100 forests you can visit in Northern Ireland