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Jersey red squirrel disease surveillance scheme – up date October 2018
The JSPCA Animals’ Shelter are very pleased to announce the publication of a paper on the health of Jersey’s red squirrel population in a professional veterinary journal, The Veterinary Record. This report is the culmination of 7 years of research carried out by former JSPCA Veterinary Surgeon, Tiffany Blackett, on deceased squirrels that came into the JSPCA during this period. The work was partly funded by grants from the Jersey Ecology Trust Fund, the Jersey Countryside Enhancement Scheme, Howard David Farm Trust and donations from kind benefactors. Tiffany is passionate about red squirrels and is dedicated to the continuation of the JSPCA Animals’ Shelter red squirrel disease surveillance scheme which she presently operates in a voluntary capacity.
This important work aimed to establish the cause of death and incidence of specific diseases in a total of 337 dead squirrels.
The results showed that 50.7% of squirrels examined post-mortem died as a result of road traffic injuries, 34.4% died from disease, 6.5% from trauma such as that associated with falls or entrapment, 7.1% died as a result of being attacked (by cats, dogs and birds including crows and magpies) and 1.2% died from suspected poisoning.
This work also highlighted that in the Jersey red squirrels that were examined in this study, there was no identification of the presence of squirrelpox virus. Squirrelpox virus is carried by the larger, non-native grey squirrels found in the UK and is usually fatal in reds. The most common disease processes identified in this study were a parasitic infection caused by a nematode worm that affects the liver, amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits that build up in various organs and tissues) and a condition called Fatal Exudative Dermatitis (a bacterial skin infection).
Whilst it is estimated that there are currently only about 500 red squirrels on the island, a separate study in 2013 showed that in-breeding in the Jersey squirrels was not associated with the incidence of general disease or cases of amyloidosis.
The JSPCA is proud to have supported this study and continues to assist this vital, on-going research into the health of Jersey’s red squirrel population.