Pox virus threatens declining red squirrel
THE endangered Irish red squirrel population is under renewed threat from the squirrel pox virus.
Dr Ferdia Marnell of the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) confirmed a dead red squirrel recently found in Co Wicklow was infected with the virus.
Squirrel pox virus (SQPV) is generally fatal to red squirrels and has played a significant role in the decline of the species across England.
The virus is carried by grey squirrels -- who do not appear to suffer from the virus -- and it is not clear why the disease is now turning up in Irish red squirrels.
One theory being examined by Dr Marnell is the effect of the unseasonably cold winter last year, which may have put grey squirrels under severe stress, "possibly allowing them to manifest the disease".