The Scotsman : 2019-05-11



19 THE SCOTSMAN Saturday 11 May 2019 SCOTSMAN. COM @ THESCOTSMA­N Virus outbreak threatens south’s red squirrels stronghold in Dumfries and Galloway, this part of the Solway Coast has seen a small number of g r e y s qui r r e l s move into the area in recent t i mes and begin t o spread widely. Dr Stephanie Johnstone, conservati­on officer for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels said: “With support of local volunteers from the Solway Forests Red S quirrel Network, we have deployed emergency squirrelpo­x outbreak response measures. “Grey squirrels are being r e mo v e d f r o m t h e a r e a t hrough l ive t rapping and humane dispatch. We know that when grey squirrel numbers are kept low, red squirrel population­s can recover following the devastatio­n of an outbreak.” John Lind, who volunteers with the Solway Forests Red Squirrel Network, said: “The arrival of this disease in our area is very distressin­g. I have seen too many cases now and we need to tr y and combat the spread of this outbreak. One way people can help is by reporting sick red squirrels.” Squirrelpo­x outbreak discovered along Solway Coast ● CHRIS MCCALL By Environmen­tal experts have appealed for help after a virus outbreak was recorded among Scotland’s already threatened population of red squirrels. A number of squirrelpo­x cases have been r ecorded along the Solway Coast close to the Border in the past month, prompting emergency action from conservati­onists. The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels campaign has asked locals to remove wildlife feedi ng equipment and repor t sightings of animals with signs of disease as a matter of priority. Squirrelpo­x i s carried by grey squirrels, but is deadly only to reds. While outbreaks are common, the rural area on the south coast is not known to have had one before. Symptoms include lesions which prevent the red squirrel from eating, drinking or moving. It is usually fatal with- in two weeks and an outbreak can cause local numbers to crash. In recent weeks at least 15 red squirrels have died as a result of squirrelp ox, with more sick squirrels spotted across an area that spans from Palnackie to Carsethorn in Kirkcudbri­ghtshire. Experts said wildlife feeder boxes and garden bird tables i ncrease t he ri sk of squirrelpo­x transmissi­on as they bring squirrels of both species into closer contact with one another. While the virus is initially spread by grey squirrels, once it has entered the red squirrel population, red- to- red squir- r el t r ansmission will al so occur. Campaigner­s said it was therefore crucial that all squirrels be prevented from coming into close contact at feeders during an outbreak. A l ong- t i me red squirrel chris. [email protected] scotsman. com TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE Join us to recognise our 2019 finalists as voted for by you and hear the winners announced live by our host Arlene Stuart at The Principal Edinburgh on Monday 13th May 2019. www. edinburghr­estauranta­wards. co. uk Visit to buy your tickets today. WITH THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS

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