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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 06:40 GMT
Grey virus threatens red squirrels
Red Squirrel
The red squirrels have no immunity to the virus
A large colony of red squirrels in Merseyside is under threat from a deadly new virus.

Wildlife managers fear the 600-strong colony in Formby could be wiped out after a squirrel found dead near Southport was found to have died from the highly-contagious disease.

The parapox virus is carried by grey squirrels which are not affected by it.

But red squirrels have no immunity to the strain and, once infected, usually die within a few days.

Red squirrel numbers have been declining for decades since the introduction of the grey to the UK which has driven out its smaller cousin.

But the colony at the National Trust reserve in Formby had been thriving in recent years due to conservation measures.

Wildlife officials have now asked people to report any findings of dead squirrels in the area.




SEE ALSO:
Squirrels 'genetically altered' by forest
21 Sep 01 |  Science/Nature
Moves to ensure red is not dead
21 Aug 00 |  Scotland
Squirrels red and dead
23 Sep 98 |  UK News


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