At CDDNI we are passionate about our volunteer work with local red squirrel groups. Currently we run a rapid response team for Ulster Wildlife and various red squirrel groups in NI to locate dead red squirrels and prevent the spread of squirrel pox.
Dogs aiding in squirrel pox outbreaks
The invasive grey squirrel carries a virus called squirrel pox that can infect the native red squirrel. This causes red squirrels to grow lesions around eyes, mouth, paws and genitalia, eventually leading to a slow death from starvation.
This virus will kill a red squirrel within 2 weeks and can rapidly infect over 90% of the population in a woodland. In Northern Ireland, there have been several squirrel pox outbreaks in red squirrel strongholds. A previous outbreak in Tollymore Forest park was thought to have infected over 94% of the red squirrel population.
Rufus has been trained to find red squirrel carcasses to identify possible pox outbreaks. The ability to find a greater number of carcasses more quickly has enabled local wildlife trusts to confirm pox outbreaks quicker. By finding carcasses that can be tested successfully, they can reduce the spread of pox from carcasses by removing them from the woodland, and confirm the end of a pox outbreak by continuing searches after the disease was thought to have dissipated.
Please get in touch with us if you are part of a charity that could benefit from having a dog in your team.