Die-offs of mammals, birds, reptiles in Western U.S. — “So many diseases afflicting such a wide variety of animals” — Names out of sci-fi thriller: hemorrhagic disease, sylvatic plague — Studies now underway to find out why (VIDEO)

Saturday, November 23, 2013
By Paul Martin

November 23rd, 2013

Billings Gazette, Nov. 18, 2013: Jared Jansen […] said, he and his father, Mike, have seen up to 100 dead deer at a time along the Musselshell River. […] die-offs have whittled the once hardy deer herds down to a handful […] “I’ve only seen three does this year. […] It used to be when I was haying along the river, early in the morning, I’d see 200 to 500 head in the meadows.” […] The names sound like something out of a science fiction thriller: epizootic hemorrhagic disease, sylvatic plague, bluetongue, brucellosis, chytrid, chronic wasting disease […] Yet the all-too-real afflictions threaten to reduce the populations of wild mammals, birds and reptiles across Montana, Wyoming and other regions […] “There is a general consensus among scientists that we are seeing more disease,” said Jonathan Sleeman, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. […] so many diseases afflicting such a wide variety of animals […] A study is being conducted in northwestern Montana to examine the possible causes […]

Independent Record, Oct. 31, 2013: What’s happening to all the moose? Moose in the northern United States are dying in what scientists say may be the start of climate shock […] The die-off is most dire in Minnesota, where ecologists say moose could be gone within a decade. […] Concerns have prompted a 10-year study of moose in Montana […] It’s not just in Montana, either. […] An aerial survey of moose in northeastern Minnesota earlier this year showed a 52 percent drop in population since 2010, which prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to completely call off the 2013 moose hunting season […] In various regions of British Columbia [Canada], populations have declined anywhere from 20 to 70 percent in recent years. […] In Montana [they’re going] to monitor adult female survival, pregnancy and calf-survival rates. […] They’re also monitoring the number of ticks on the moose, and use a portable ultrasound machine to measure the layer of rump fat. […] The study also calls for sampling moose from across the state for genetics and parasites. […]

Nick DeCesare, the Missoula-based lead biologist on the Montana study: “About one-third of our animals have no fat on their rump; that was in the winter, so that’s a pretty big deal […] Are lean animals dying, not giving birth to calves or could they just be leaner this year and are doing fine next year?” […] Three of the [36] collared moose already have died; one was killed by a wolf and the other two were in poor health. […] “Having such a small sample to start with, then having three die, is a big deal.”

Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Canada: “The fact that you’ve got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there’s an underlying ultimate cause.”

The Rest…HERE

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