back to article Red squirrels! Adorable, right? Wrong – they're riddled with leprosy

Blighty's dwindling population of red squirrels is riddled with leprosy, according to new research. Not full-on leprosy, but leprosy-lite, according to a paper with the Ronseal title of Leprosy in Red Squirrels, published in Science, alongside a report titled Red squirrels in the British Isles are infected with leprosy bacilli …

  1. AIBailey

    Seems relevant....

    Party at the leper colony

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTFbbthrQYw

  2. wabbit347
    Coat

    Blech

    Presumably these are the same adorable creatures bouncing up and down on a trampoline along with the TB ridden badger, and the rabid foxes? (The coat from Victorian Scrooge Era - bah, Humbug)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    As I once heard....

    Squirrels are just rats with a good PR company.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As I once heard....

      Tree rats, we also see the normal ground rats as well of millions of those damn sky rats.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As I once heard....

      Seagulls are the rats of the sky.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As I once heard....

        Magpies are the sky rats I was thinking of

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: As I once heard....

          Pigeons are rats with wings, and the hideous offspring of escaped parakeets and sewer rats.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: As I once heard....

            The way this thread seems to be heading, it would appear that ALL animals are rats!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As I once heard....

      >Squirrels are just rats with a good PR company.

      Probably the same one which bats use (population is riddled with rabies in the UK). H&S regulations require UK bat handlers to have rabies vaccination, American tourists visiting rural UK for a bit of glamping are advised to get the rabies vaccination by doctors. Most UK people totally unaware until they (or more usually their pets) get bitten and the medics scrabble for vaccine.

    4. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: As I once heard....

      Explains why they are long overdue to get seriously "mugged by a gang of fieldmice".

    5. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: As I once heard....

      The Ministry of Agriculture once produced a leaflet which was pure lies from start to finish stating that sciurus carolinensis* was a kind of rat, in the hope that the public would support killing them off instead of feeding them. We had a copy at school which our biology teacher would occasionally wave around as an example of why politicians can't be trusted. DEFRA continues in this fine tradition of making up lies to suit its current political pressures, and never stops to think about why it has zilch credibility.

      *The grey squirrel is a squirrel, not a rat, which is why it's sciurus carolinensis and not rattus carolinensis.

      1. kyndair

        Re: As I once heard....

        DEFRA thinking always seems to follow logical fallacies such as:

        All rats are rodents therefore all rodents are rats.

        This also explains why they couldn't sort out a simple farm payments system like every other country but had to go for the most complex bureaucratic system with a failed IT solution behind it.

        In short they couldn't organise a piss up at a free bar.

        1. paulf Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: As I once heard....

          @ kyndair "DEFRA thinking always seems to follow logical fallacies such as: All rats are rodents therefore all rodents are rats."

          I'd offer the Yes, Minister example of Politician logic from Sir Humphrey:

          "All cats have four legs. My dog has four legs; therefore my dog is a cat".

          I don't know what's more worrying - how often these dolts put forward such questionable logic or how often us in the electorate fall for it?

  4. 0laf Silver badge

    Eeew

    Nothing worse than a warty squirrel

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nothing worse than a warty squirrel

      How about a purulent Beaver?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Nothing worse than a warty squirrel

        A rusty starfish.

    2. Doc Ock
  5. jake Silver badge

    Seems obvious to me.

    "it is not clear whether they were responsible for spreading the disease, or if they had caught it themselves from humans."

    Seeing as humans eat squirrels, but squirrels don't eat humans ...

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Seems obvious to me.

      Goodness knows what the Scouts have been getting up to on Brownsea Island

      Yikes

    2. Nolveys Silver badge

      Re: Seems obvious to me.

      Seeing as humans eat squirrels, but squirrels don't eat humans ...

      "Mmmmmm, delicious! You can really taste the leprosy!"

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Seems obvious to me.

        my scoutmaster (when I was 11) shot a squirrel when we were on a survival hike. Then he just handed it to us boy scouts to figure out how to cook the thing. It was still choking to death. My suggestion [having read the correct books] of 'starting with the anus' was the correct one, of course, but NOBODY knew how to skin and clean an animal. And squirrels are 99% guts, it seems, with only a few bits of edible meat on their entire body... and it DOES taste kinda like dried up chicken.

        1. Tikimon Silver badge

          Re: Seems obvious to me.

          My extended family were poorly-funded farm folks a generation ago, when the area was more rural as well. Squirrel was on the menu often then, being plentiful and highly susceptible to a .22 rifle. I don't hunt, but gray squirrels seem like a classic renewable resource, and I've been tempted to "harvest" a few.

          But then I researched the details. Even among hunters, squirrels are considered a pain the arse to clean and skin. I'm not dismayed by much, but decided I would reserve that one in case of dire need.

          I can't imagine that anyone sane would expect a group of kids to figure it out on their own. Possibly he didn't know how himself and covered it by passing the buck to the kids?

    3. Yesnomaybe

      Re: Seems obvious to me.

      Hahaha, oh shit!!! I have eaten quite a few red squirrels!! But not in the UK thankfully. Didn't notice any ... uh... abnormalities on them, and obviously cooked them rather well (You have to. They are pretty tough so needs a good couple of hours in the pot)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems obvious to me.

      >Seeing as humans eat squirrels, but squirrels don't eat humans ...

      Squirrels do actually eat carrion including humans - they also kill and eat chicks, baby squirrels, mice etc

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Given how easy it is to cure leprosy these days

    I'd say they're less dangerous than a big mac.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Given how easy it is to cure leprosy these days

      Yes, it's easily cured as long as you can medicate the little critters every day for 6 months to a year.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Given how easy it is to cure leprosy these days

      While it is "easy" to cure, the damage to the nerves from it cannot be repaired.

      By the way - I would not call walking around with an antibiotic drip for 3 months "easy".

  7. mickaroo
    Devil

    But do they still make good eating...?

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Only the grey variety (apparently). Also the Reds are significantly smaller than the Greys so there isn't (anything like) as much meat on a Red.

      1. John Hawkins

        I've got an old recipe for red squirrel that suggests first skinning, gutting (guess they could get a bit gamey otherwise, but YMMV), then rubbing them in salt and pepper, basting with olive oil and grilling.

        Sounds intriguing, though I would avoid the ones with warts just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately they (squirrels, not warts) are protected where I live :(

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      Squirrels? No. Even the grey ones taste vile unless you are cousin Eddie from American Lampoon Christmas Vacation.

      You are thinking of European, aka edible doormouse. Glis Glis.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_dormouse

      It is genetically closer to squirrels then other doormice. Behaviourally - it is a climbing rat. The pest from hell. Can walk on ceilings and walls, can dig, chews its way even through hardwood and is not afraid of anything either. While other rodents will try to scurry away, this one will try to stare you down and can even jump back and bite.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Joke

        Never underestimate a rodent

        It might be a killer rabbit, after all

  8. redpawn Silver badge

    Save the Reservoir (red squirrel)

    It may be like that odd connector you threw away and now desperately need but can't find anywhere when desperate circumstances arise.

    This may be just the right virus to kill off an alien invasion or save honey bees from extinction for example.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Poxy squirrels

    All squirrels can carry squirrel pox which can infect humans, it is generally fatal toReds but most Greys only carry it. Squirrels can also transmit Lyme disease to humans and carry salmonella. My advice is, don' t kiss any squirrels grey or red, eating is OK if cooked very well, I don't know about reds but grey squirrel is similar to rat.YMMV

    1. Phil W

      Re: Poxy squirrels

      "grey squirrel is similar to rat"

      So good "onna stick" and/or with plenty of ketchup?

  10. Bob Rocket

    If it gets desperate enough to eat

    squirrels, I'm hunting vegetarians. Not much meat on either but the vege's won't put up as much of a fight.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: If it gets desperate enough to eat

      Vegetarians aren't nearly as cute either.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: If it gets desperate enough to eat

      squirrels, I'm hunting vegetarians. Not much meat on either but the vege's won't put up as much of a fight.
      You do know that cattle, sheep, elephants even, are all vegetarian with lots of meat... And if you think elephants don't put up much of a fight you are in for one hell of a surprise.

    3. 0x407ab506

      Re: If it gets desperate enough to eat

      Try us.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: If it gets desperate enough to eat

        Try you with what? Mint sauce?

  11. mics39
    Pint

    Use special relationship

    Perfect timing. May's first opportunity to flout her special relationship with Trumpy to welcome his grey stormtroopers to muscle out the leprous Commie squirrels. Trumpy gets brag about his first major export and foreign invasion and May scores double points for letting Scots know who's still the boss.

    The Trumpies and Brexiters will all rejoice.

  12. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Go

    God Bless Ronald Reagan!!

    Have you considered that it was around the fall of the Berlin Wall that those commie red squirrels started getting displaced by good, God-fearing American squirrels? And now that Trump is in the White House, the last red hangers-on have developed leprosy!!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      "the last red hangers-on have developed leprosy!!"

      Hmm.

      I suspect you are not being entirely serious.

  13. kain preacher Silver badge

    Acutely were I live fox squirrels are the most common then red then grey but this this is California.

    1. SomeoneInDelaware
      Devil

      Squirrels in California

      We all know that the predominant squirrel species in California is the two legged squirrel, Sciuridae Homoerectus.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Squirrels in California

        SomeoneInDelaware, having had the unfortunate job of traveling the world installing fiber, I can assure you that the population of Sciuridae Homoerectus is spread equally throughout the population globally. Even in Delaware.

    2. Dick

      Don't forget the very destructive California ground squirrel!

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Dick

        The dawgs & I fed the local Red Tail Hawks about a dozen of the little monsters just this afternoon. Just a dent in the population, but every little bit helps!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soooo

    When a they squirrel away nuts......what sort of nuts are we talking?

    Trees drop nuts.

    Lepers...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Diseased = Not nice ?

    So if something is diseased, that immediately makes it nasty ?

    BIT of a dodgy attitude, no ?

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  16. kain preacher Silver badge

    But California squirrels are sexy.

  17. Korev Silver badge
    WTF?

    Puns?

    I can't believe we'd made it this far without a pun! Has someone got one squirrelled away somewhere?

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Puns?

      squirrels run this site that's why no puns.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Sounds like a plot for a low budget straight-to-download horror movie to me.

    "Watch out for the Squirrels"

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