Squirrel vaccination programme now needed as last chance to save reds in

“We have had 50 dead squirrels that we have found  but most go underground to die so the real number will be hundreds.”Ms Mead spends her days watching the red squirrels in Galloway forest and said it is horrific to see them die in front of her.She added: “We would be lucky if we had a year left the rate it’s picking up now. We need the vaccine. It’s a horrendous, horrific illness. It completely destroys them in a week.”I monitor this colony, I’ve been coming in every day expecting to see them dead and dying and I’m expecting at any moment – we  have babies and pregnant mothers here and I’m going to watch them all die.”Then I find a vaccine has been tested and works and has been sat on a shelf for 10 years after they gave up trying to raise funding. I tried to speak to Defra about it and they haven’t replied. I’ve emailed Theresa Villiers and she hasn’t replied.”The original population of red squirrels is thought to have been 3.5 million, and it is now down to 140,000, limited to small colonies in parts of Northern England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Scotland’s red squirrels could be wiped out in a year, campaigners have said, as they urge the government to fund a squirrelpox vaccine.While there has been a vaccine for ten years, lack of funds means it has sat on a shelf. The final stages of development include a final test on wild squirrels to see if they respond as well as they do in captivity.Squirrel charity the Wildlife Ark Trust has been trying to raise money to roll out the vaccine, and needs around £115,000 for it to be completed.The disease was originally brought to Britain when grey squirrels arrived, and it decimated the population of their red cousins.It causes lesions to form on the faces of the animals, and they eventually starve to death. It is highly contagious and can be spread if one squirrel touches a nut or a tree touched by an infected animal.Vicki Mead, who works to monitor a colony of red squirrels in Dumfries and Galloway, said Defra has ignored her plea to roll out the vaccine.She told The Telegraph: “The greys have taken the border, the last red squirrel was sighted in the borders in 2017. That used to be a red squirrel territory. “We are the last entrance to Scotland left – and we are losing our squirrels due to squirrel pox. The sheer numbers of grey squirrels have meant the virus is spreading so fast. And now it’s going red to red they stand no chance unless we get a vaccine. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Defra has been contacted for comment.The donations page for the squirrel pox vaccine can be found here. Just gorgeous, Lady. Made my day. pic.twitter.com/vgj3QS5Ig1— Victoria McNamara (@vickimead) August 18, 2019 read more

Continue reading