PCR was used to amplify adenoviral DNA, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to detect adenovirus particles in tissue and intestinal content samples from red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) associated with a reintroduction study on Anglesey (North Wales), from other populations on the island and from stock held at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, 38 km to the east. Samples were collected during the routine surveillance postmortem examinations of all 60 red squirrels with carcases retrieved in a suitable condition between 2004 and 2010, including 29 captive and 31 free-living animals. Following significant clusters of mortality in captive red squirrels, adenovirus was identified retrospectively in faecal material from 12 of 13 (92 per cent) examined carcases from squirrels captive on Anglesey, and 14 of 16 (88 per cent) from the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Virus was identified in 13 of 31 (42 per cent) free-living wild animals, with evidence of both subclinical and clinically significant enteric adenoviral infections in wild squirrels. Without ancillary PCR and TEM testing, the extent of adenovirus infection in such populations would have been underestimated. Screening protocols that include examinations for adenovirus should, therefore, be part of the routine biosecurity measures protecting reintroduction or captive breeding programmes for red squirrels.
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