Health Status of the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) Population in Umbria: Results of the LIFE Project 'U-SAVEREDS'

Animals (Basel). 2022 Oct 12;12(20):2741. doi: 10.3390/ani12202741.


The introduction of the Eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Europe is one of the best-known cases of invasive alien species (IAS) colonisation, that poses a severe risk to the conservation of biodiversity. In 2003, it was released in a private wildlife park near the city of Perugia (Italy), where it is replacing the native Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). The LIFE13 BIO/IT/000204 Project (U-SAVEREDS) was set up for the Sciurus vulgaris conservation in Umbria through an eradication campaign of grey squirrels. One hundred and fifty-four animals were analysed for bacteriological, mycological, virological, and serological investigations (C4 action). Sanitary screening showed that Sciurus carolinensis is a dermatophyte carrier, and therefore, it could cause public health issues for humans, considering its confident behaviour. Moreover, it has been marginally responsible for the spreading of Candida albicans, Coxiella burnetii, and Borrelia lusitaniae. Health status evaluation conducted on the Sciurus carolinensis population indicated that it is necessary to raise awareness of its impacts on biodiversity and human health. Moreover, the health status and behaviours of the IAS must be considered when control or eradication campaigns are planned.

Keywords: Italy; Sciurus carolinensis; dermatophytes; invasive animal species; zoonoses.