First Wild CWD in Iowa

Late 2012 saw first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive deer in Iowa, and there has been chronic wasting disease in wild deer in every state bordering Iowa, but Iowa only recorded its first case of CWD in a wild deer in the state in an announcement on April 9.

According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release, “The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County during the first shotgun season in early December.”

The state is formulating a response plan and coordinating efforts with nearby Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A report by KTVO says that the gates of the hunting facility in Davis County where the first case of CWD was found two years ago were chained open when the facility was supposed to be quarantined to protect local deer from the disease.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release is here.
A Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about the finding is here.
A Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin article is here.
The Des Moines Register article is here.
And the KTVO report is here.


Lyme Ticks Don’t Harm Mice

cary institute mouse taggingThe ticks that carry Lyme disease, black-legged ticks or deer ticks, do not appear to harm their white-footed mice hosts, a paper in press in the journal Ecology says. In fact, the research found, a larger tick load correlated with a longer life in male mice.

The mice are a reservoir for Lyme disease, a report on the study in Entomology Today notes. “Deer and other mammals can spread tick populations, [but] they do not carry the disease,” the report says. “Instead, ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from white-footed mice.”

In a press release from the Cary Institute, paper co-author Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, says, “From a human health perspective, the indifference that white-footed mice have to black-legged ticks…. signals a positive feedback loop that favors the proliferation of parasites.”

Lots of details in the Cary Institute press release, here.
And in the Entomology Today article, here.

Photo: The study drew on 16 years of white-footed mouse mark-and-recapture data collected at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. Photo credit: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies/Sam Cillo.

White Nose Syndrome Inches West

wns in western MOSorry for the double dose of white nose syndrome (WNS) news, but I didn’t want this to get lost in yesterday’s post on the the new WNS protocol, even though it was included in the same Wildlife Health Bulletin. Here’s the announcement:

In December, WNS was confirmed in a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) from Jackson County, Missouri, which borders Kansas. This detection represents the western-most location of WNS in North America and is also the first detection of WNS during winter 2013/2014. The nearest confirmed cases of WNS from the previous winter are located in east-central Missouri.

I couldn’t find anything on this case in a newspaper or a general interest publication.
Again, the Wildlife Health Bulletin (PDF)

Map: This year’s first WNS report in red. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy USFWS

WNV And Shrikes

From the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre’s blog:

This was also a somewhat higher year for West Nile virus infection in birds in Saskatchewan. This past summer the CCWHC Western Northern region diagnosed WNV deaths in a Cooper’s hawk, two northern goshawks and two nestling loggerhead shrikes, as well as nine crows. Some diagnostic testing is still pending so those numbers may increase. The death of the loggerhead shrike nestlings is particularly noteworthy as the number of shrikes has declined dramatically throughout their range and in some parts of Canada they face local extinction. In Canada, eastern loggerhead shrikes are considered endangered and prairie loggerhead shrikes are threatened. The population of shrikes has been declining for the last century and the causes for the declines are multiple and varied. As their numbers dwindle, WNV is just one more threat faced by this vulnerable species.

Read the blog, here.

Western Pond Turtle Diseases Studied

wpt-measured_csilbernagelWhy are western pond turtle populations declining? The focus has been on habitat decline and competition from non-native red-eared sliders. Recently, researchers from University of California at Davis, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up for the first study of western pond turtle diseases.

They found that both the western pond turtles, and the red-eared sliders carried a virus known to cause respiratory infections, especially in southern California. They also found that the turtles were free of herpesvirus, ranavirus and the bacteria salmonella.

Read more about the study on the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab blog, here. It includes a link to the abstract of the journal article about the study.

Photo: A western pond turtle is being measured as part of a collaborative study to examine their health. (Photo courtesy of C. Silbernagel, UC Davis)

West Nile Kills Eagles in Utah

bald_eagle utahA Utah Division of Wildlife Resources press release says that West Nile virus killed over 20 bald eagles near the Great Salt Lake in Utah last month.

The eagle deaths are unusual in several ways. First, West Nile virus tends to be most active in the summer months when infections are spread by mosquitoes. Second, while West Nile virus is typically spread by mosquitoes, Utah wildlife officials think that this time the eagles got infected after eating eared grebes that had made a migration stop on the Great Salt Lake. (About two million eared grebes visit the lake during migration.)

The smart money was on avian cholera or even avian vacuolar myelinopathy causing the deaths, but testing in two different labs, including the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc., showed that neither of these diseases was the cause.

The press release quotes a state epidemiologist saying that there is “no risk” to human health from the outbreak because humans typically get West Nile from mosquito bites, and mosquitoes aren’t active in Utah at this time of year.

Read the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources release, here.
Find a list of media coverage of the mortality event and the West Nile diagnosis, here.

Photo: A bald eagle in Utah. Photo by Lynn Chamberlain

Infection and Capture Fatalities

It happens. An animal is captured for study, is released, but dies soon after. A certain percentage of fatalities is expected in any study where animals are handled. In Chile recently, five fur seal pups died after being captured, AAAS’s ScienceShot reports. There had been no previous fatalities in the four years of the study.

Veterinarians studying the dead pups found they all had a hookworm infection. The infection sent the seals’ adrenal glands into over-drive, stressing their hearts. The researchers say that fieldworkers should not try to capture seals that show signs of chronic infection, which is probably good advice when working with other animals as well.

Read the ScienceShot article here. It includes links to the paper and other information.


Elk Killed by Blue-Green Algae

More Cervid Contraception: GonaCon and ElkOutbreaks of blue-green algae are a growing plague across the country. Pollution plays a role, by providing nutrients (the pollution is typically fertilizer, but also detergents containing phosphates) that allow the algae (which isn’t really algae, but a photosynthetic bacteria — read more here) to grow to unnatural levels.

The toxins in blue-green algae can kill animals such as dogs or cattle that drink the water. Children are at higher risk from blue-green algae toxins than adults for the same reason; they are more likely to drink water while swimming. Hot weather and still lakes or ponds make things worse, leading some states to produce regular reports on where blue-green algae is found.

A mysterious die-off of 100 elk in New Mexico appears to have been caused by blue-green algae, an article in the Southwest Farm Press reports. Biologists from the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish considered many common causes of elk death, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease, anthrax and lightning.

A search of nearby water sources found blue-green algae in fiberglass water tanks in the area where the elk died, but not in ceramic water tanks in the same area. Just another possibility to consider when you are faced with an unexplained wildlife die-off.

Read the entire article in the Southwest Farm Press.

Photo: Photo: A healthy bull elk. Credit: Gary Zahm, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Zombies vs. Wildlife

Can I be Boing Boing when I grow up? Last week it ran a post by National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski on how wildlife would save us if there were ever a zombie attack and if whatever caused zombification only affected humans.

“If there was ever a zombie uprising, wildlife would kick its ass,” Mizejewski says in the piece.

What follows is an overview of wildlife’s role in cleaning up the undead, from carrion eating birds, to carnivores that will go for anything slow-moving, to detritivores like maggots and beetles. It’s got lots of videos, so this is not lunchtime reading.

Our cultural zombie moment is peaking now, so enjoy. But when zombies finally jump the shark, remember, you heard it here first. (Well, second.)

“Zombies vs. animals” in Boing Boing, here.

Antibiotic Resistance Spreads to Wildlife

m_crow_5Antibiotic resistance isn’t just for humans and farm animals. An article in Environmental Health News says that antibiotic resistance has been found in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales. You can follow links in the article to get to the journal article with the findings for each of those groups.

The big question raised in the article is, what is the implication for human health? Nobody really knows. But certainly, if you are handling wildlife, these findings give you a reason to be even more cautious. And they certainly have implications for wildlife rehabilitation.

Read the entire article in Environmental Health News.
The article focuses on a recent crow study, and you can find the abstract for that here.

Photo: Crow. By David Herr, courtesy US Forest Service