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spectr17
09-14-2007, 11:32 AM
WRD Explains Mystery Of Georgia's Lumpy Squirrels

9/14/07

Social Circle, Georgia - Squirrel hunters and wildlife watchers across the state are questioning the health of some of Georgia's squirrel population. Many have observed small lumps or "warbles" protruding from underneath the skin of squirrels and wonder if there is a cause for alarm. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), these "lumpy" squirrels are a natural annual occurrence resulting from the presence of Cuterebra emasculator - a bot fly, and though they seem abnormal in appearance, they are perfectly safe for squirrel hunters to skin and eat.

"The good news is that the lumps many hunters are observing are not tumors. In fact, they are caused by 'warbles,' which are bot fly larvae growing just under the squirrel's skin, " explains WRD Wildlife Biologist Alex Coley.

This particular bot fly parasitizes gray squirrels, fox squirrels and chipmunks throughout the eastern and midwestern regions of North America. Affected gray squirrels typically can be observed during late summer and early fall - from mid-late July to the end of October.

WRD advises squirrel hunters across the state that consumption of affected squirrels is safe - once the squirrel is skinned, the parasites come off with the hide. Because the larvae are strictly on the skin of the squirrel, the squirrel meat remains unaffected unless there is a secondary infection.

Adult bot flies lay their eggs either in the vicinity of the squirrel's habitat - on foliage, twigs or limbs near the squirrel's nest, or directly on the squirrel. Once the larva hatches, it crawls into a body opening and migrates to a location underneath the skin of the squirrel. There the larva creates a warble pore and continues to grow for approximately three to ten weeks until it matures and eventually exits the warble, falling to the ground. The larva then burrows in the ground to pupate and the cycle repeats itself the following year.

While the presence of warbles may be uncomfortable for the squirrels, it's not deadly. In fact, affected squirrels tend to recover quickly once the larvae exit from the warbles to the ground. While the sight of a squirrel with warbles may be a bit unsettling, they generally pose no threat to uninfested squirrels, other wildlife, humans or domestic animals.

For more information on bot fly larvae infestation, gray or fox squirrels or squirrel hunting in Georgia, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com (http://www.gohuntgeorgia.com/), contact a local WRD Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416.

Media Contact:
Jennifer N. Barnes (770) 918-6795