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Squirrel poxvirus: Landscape scale strategies for managing disease threat

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Rushton, Dr Peter Lurz, Dr Mark Shirley, Cordula Bruemmer


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Squirrel poxvirus (SQPV) is a well-documented example of pathogen-mediated competition between an invasive species, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), and a native species, the Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). SQPV causes disease with high mortality in red squirrels but appears non-pathogenic in grey squirrels. Not all populations of introduced grey squirrels carry the virus, notably those in Scotland and Italy, and the rate of red squirrel replacement by grey squirrels is some twenty times faster in those areas where grey squirrels carry the virus. Here we develop strategies to manage the SQPV disease threat to red squirrels by reference to the largest, designated red squirrel refuge site in England, Kielder Forest (50 000 ha). Using modelling techniques, we identify four main corridors within the buffer zone by which grey squirrels will reach Kielder, initially within two years and in large numbers within 10 years. Assuming that greys will not settle within Kielder because of the unfavourable nature of the spruce habitat, we predict that SQPV disease will burn out at the edges of the forest, although many red squirrels will die. This burn-out is unlikely to be the scenario in other refuge areas where the habitat is more favourable to greys. We conclude that the conservation of red squirrels will depend on minimising contact between red and grey squirrel populations, and we advocate monitoring grey squirrels in corridors within buffer zones around refuge areas, and removing them when detected. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gurnell J, Rushton SP, Lurz PWW, Sainsbury A, Nettleton P, Shirley MDF, Bruemmer CM, Geddes N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2006

Volume: 131

Issue: 2

Pages: 287-295

Print publication date: 01/08/2006

ISSN (print): 0006-3207

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2917

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.04.009


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