Squirrel Pox Virus is a disease carried and transmitted by the non-native grey squirrel. The
pox virus does not harm the grey squirrel but will kill a red squirrel within 14 days of infection. It is not known exactly how the disease is transmitted but it is suspected that fleas, ticks,
scent marking, saliva, and urine are all possible modes of transmission. This means that disinfection and grey squirrel management are important to prevent spread of the disease in red squirrel
A pox infected red squirrel will have pox lesions on its face, paws and genital area.
Squirrel pox virus was diagnosed in a dead red squirrel found in Tollymore Park in March 2011. For the next seven months this disease ravaged the red squirrel population within the park until
approximately 90% of the red squirrels were gone. This was the first incident of squirrel pox virus recorded on the island of Ireland, probably not because it was its first occurrence but because
it was the first time it had been discovered and diagnosed.
The pox recurred early in 2016. Thankfully to date there have been very few casualties of
this more recent outbreak with swift action from the volunteers and huge public support helping to prevent the spread of the disease.
Members of the public are advised to disinfect garden feeders in red squirrel areas once a
week and to report sightings of sick or dead squirrels to a member of the group via our email, text, Facebook or Twitter Contact Us or to alert a Forest Service DAERA-NI staff. Sick
squirrels may appear lethargic, or have visible lesions on mouth, paws, eyes or genitals.