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Wildlife Diseases


(Is it zoonotic*?)
Primary Widlife AffectedPrimary Transmission RouteU.S. DistributionNPS Management ActivitiesLinks
Avian botulism ("limberneck"); caused by toxins produced by a bacterium, Clostridium botulinum

Birds, especially waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, and loonsIngestion of toxin-containing water or foodSporadic across the U.S.Surveillance; prompt removal of carcassesNational Wildlife Health Center
Bighorn sheep pneumonia complex: Mannheimia haemolytica and/or Mycoplasma spp. ± lungworm (Protostrongylus spp.) ± respiratory viruses

Bighorn sheepNose-to-nose contact or aerosol via respiratory secretionsWestern U.S.Monitoring wild sheep populations within parks, coordinating with state wildlife management agencies to restore bighorn sheep populations in areas where they historically ranged. Reducing contact between domestic livestock, particularly domestic sheep, and bighorn sheep
Bovine brucellosis (Brucella abortus)

Elk and bisonVia exposure to contaminated tissues, birthing fluids, or milkGreater Yellowstone Area including Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPsThe National Park Service is a key participant in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, a multi-agency effort that guides the management of bison and bovine brucellosis in and around Yellowstone NP. The plan seeks to maintain a wild, free-ranging bison population and reduce the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. A Bison and Elk Management Plan for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton NP guides management of the elk and bison populations on the refuge and the park.Interagency Bison Management Plan

Yellowstone bison

Elk and Bison Management Plan
Chronic wasting disease (CWD, prion)

(No evidence to suggest that it is; however, research is ongoing)
Mule deer, white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, mooseDirect contact with infected animal or contaminated environmentGeographically distinct locations across U.S., including Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado, and Wind Cave NP, South DakotaChronic wasting disease management is difficult due to the long incubation period and slow development of the disease. The primary management tool is preventing the disease from being spread across the landscape by strictly limiting human assisted cervid movement either into or out of parks. Additionally, all animals showing clinical signs of CWD are removed from at risk populations, and dead deer, elk and moose are tested for the disease. The NPS works closely with other state and federal wildlife management agencies to develop and implement national disease management strategies and actively participates in CWD research projects.CWD Alliance

National Wildlife Health Center
Chytrid disease; chytridiomycosis, fungal infection, caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Amphibians, especially frogsExposure to infected waterNearly nationwideSurveillance; disinfection of gear between waterways to prevent anthropomorphic spread of this devastating diseaseUSGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease and blue tongue viruses (EHD, BT, hemorrhagic disease)

Deer, less commonly bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelopeMidgesEndemic in the southeastern and midwestern states; spreading northInvestigate outbreaks to rule out other, potentially nonnative, diseasesSoutheastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study
Foot and Mouth Disease (Aphthovirus)

Currently no affected species in the U.S. All cloven-hoofed animals (deer, elk, bison, swine, bighorn sheep, javalina, etc.) are potentially susceptible.Direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environmentsNot currently found in the U.S. or any national parkThis disease poses a significant threat to hoofed animals if it were to be introduced into the U.S., therefore, the NPS has developed a Foot and Mouth Disease prevention and response plan to protect wildlife in parks.USDA website
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (Influenza type A, H5N1)

Currently no affected species in the U.S. Birds, especially waterfowl, shorebirds, and domestic poultry, are potentially susceptible.Ingestion of infected water or food; inhalation of airborne respiratory particlesNot currently found in the U.S. or any national parkSurveillance of potential wild avian carriers that have died or are ill. NPS has developed prevention and response plans to protect wildlife in parks.National Wildlife Health Center

CDC website
Plague (bubonic, pneumonic, septicemic); caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis

Prairie dogs, ground squirrels, black-footed ferrets; over 200 mammal species are susceptibleFlea bites; exposure to or ingestion of infected animals or carcassesWestern U.S.Monitoring/surveillance programs; application of insecticides into burrows; public education to reduce risk of exposureCDC website

All mammals are susceptible; in NPS units, bats, fox, raccoon, and skunk are the primary speciesUsually via bite from an infected animalNationwide, except HawaiiReducing human-wildlife and pet-wildlife contact through public education; cooperation in oral rabies vaccination effortsCDC website

WHO website
Tularemia (rabbit fever, deerfly fever); caused by a bacterium, Francisella tularensis

Rabbits, beaver, prairie dogsTicks; biting flies; exposure to or ingestion of infected animals, carcasses, or waterWorldwide, including throughout North AmericaSurveillance if tularemia is suspected in wildlife; risk reduction to humans is primarily via education to minimize animal contact and to prevent arthropod exposureCDC website
West Nile Virus

Birds, especially corvids (for example crows, ravens, jays)Mosquito bitesMost of the continental U.S.Risk reduction includes a variety of short- and long-term management actions such as education of staff and visitors, monitoring/surveillance programs, sanitation programs, and reduction of non-natural (man-made) mosquito habitat.National Wildlife Health Center

CDC website
White-nose syndrome; caused by a fungus, Geomyces destructans.

(Does not appear to be)
Hibernating insectivorous batsDirect bat-to-bat transfer is most common; human transfer of fungus from cave to cave is suspectedNortheastern, east-central, and midwestern U.S.Restrict access to caves; restrict gear use in caves; decontamination of gear and clothingNPS website

*Zoonotic diseases can be transferred between humans and other animals.

Last Updated: January 03, 2017