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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Red squirrel dies of deadly virus
Red and grey squirrels
The grey squirrels are not affected by the virus
A wildlife protection group is trying to stop the spread of a deadly virus that could wipe out Merseyside's red squirrel population.

The news comes after a red squirrel was confirmed to have died of squirrel pox virus in Ainsdale, Merseyside.

The virus is carried by grey squirrels but does not affect them. Red squirrels have no immunity to the disease.

The Red Alert group is calling for the humane trapping of grey squirrels to try to stop an epidemic.

There have recently been outbreaks in Little Crosby, Rufford and Ormskirk.

Report sightings

Squirrel pox virus is known to be one of the significant factors in the catastrophic decline of red squirrels in the UK.

When red squirrels become infected with the disease, they become lethargic and develop scabs and lesions around their mouth and eyes.

The colony in Sefton is one of the last remaining in the country.

Red Alert is asking people who feed red squirrels in their gardens to stop doing so, or to disinfect feeding equipment daily to try to stop the spread of disease.

People are asked to report any sightings of grey squirrels in gardens or anywhere in Sefton, and report sick or dead red squirrels to Merseyside's red squirrel project officer.


SEE ALSO
Grey squirrels face massive cull
22 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
New push to protect red squirrels
11 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Pet drug may halt squirrel virus
15 Sep 05 |  Cumbria
Third red squirrel refuge for UK
09 Sep 05 |  Merseyside
Virus 'threatening red squirrels'
15 Jun 05 |  Scotland

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