THE JSPCA is ‘remaining vigilant’ for signs of squirrel pox in the Island’s squirrel population.
The virus is killing large numbers of red squirrels in the UK, with the species in a region of Wales reduced by 80% over one winter, prompting calls from campaigners for a vaccine that could help protect the animals.
At the moment, the virus has not spread to Jersey as it is carried by grey squirrels, which are not present here.
‘However, viruses can change behaviour over time and there is always the possibility the virus could mutate in a way that means it could be carried by another species,’ said Joanne McAllister, a senior veterinary surgeon at the JSPCA.
‘So we remain vigilant to clinical signs in the casualty squirrels that come into the JSPCA.’
Naturalists brought red squirrels to the Island in the 19th century, but grey squirrels were never imported.
‘Hopefully, the fact that we are an island and can keep greys out means pox won’t arrive in Jersey,’ Ms McAllister said.
A study published in 2018 found no squirrel pox present in the Island and revealed that half of squirrel deaths locally were caused by road accidents.
‘There was, however, a fatal skin condition identified [in the study] that can look like squirrel pox, but seems to be a bacterial infection,’ Ms McAllister said.
‘Whilst this is fatal, we do not see it frequently and so it does not seem to have an effect on the overall squirrel population in the way squirrel pox would.’