Between 2007 and 2014, 337 free-living red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) on Jersey, Channel Islands, were examined post mortem as part of a mortality and disease surveillance scheme. Road traffic accidents (RTAs) were attributable for 50.7 per cent (171/337) of the casualties, 34.4 per cent (116/337) succumbed to diseases including fatal exudative dermatitis (FED), 7.1 per cent (24/337) to predation, 6.5 per cent (22/337) to other trauma and 1.2 per cent (4/337) to suspected poisoning. Cat predation accounted for 5 per cent (17/337) of mortalities. Pathologies were diverse and individual animals were often identified with more than one disease process. Squirrelpox virus (SQPV) particles were not detected in selected cases examined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Amyloid was identified in 19.3 per cent (65/337) of squirrels, often in conjunction with inflammatory lesions like hepatic capillariasis. A consistent cause of amyloid accumulation was not identified, although there was a significant association of amyloidosis with hepatic capillariasis and FED. In addition to RTAs, amyloidosis and FED have been identified as important causes of squirrel morbidity and mortality on Jersey, while the underlying aetiology and predisposing factors for these two disease complexes are presently unclear. Disease, fragmented woodlands, an increasingly suburban habitat, along with various anthropogenic factors, may jeopardise the long-term viability of this island red squirrel population.
- disease surveillance
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Contributors TAB designed, implemented and coordinated the study and performed the gross necropsy examinations. VRS, SH, CFM and KCS participated in the histopathology and DJE performed the virology. ACM performed statistical analyses. All authors assisted with writing the draft manuscript and read and approved the final draft.
Funding The JSPCA Animals’ Shelter, the Jersey Ecology Trust Fund, the Jersey Countryside Enhancement Scheme, Howard Davis Farm Trust, Moore Stephens, the Channel Island Co-operative Society Limited and private benefactors helped fund this study as part of the JSPCA Animals’ Shelter Jersey Red Squirrel Disease Surveillance Scheme.
Competing interests TAB reports personal fees and non-financial support from the JSPCA Animals’ Shelter, grants from Jersey Countryside Enhancement Scheme (CES), Howard Davis Farm Trust, Jersey Ecology Trust Fund and donations from the Channel Island Co-operative Society Limited, Moore Stephens and private benefactors during the reported study period.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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