TWS article raises awareness about mange outbreak in Bakersfield’s endangered kit foxes

The Wildlife Society has published an article highlighting our collaborative work to understand and combat the emergence of mange in endangered San Joaquin kit foxes.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to see our previous post about mange and kit foxes

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The signs of sarcoptic mange in wild kit foxes can be missed in the early stages. However, as the disease progresses and the mites proliferate, the devastating toll this disease has on an individual is easily apparent. Pictured is a mangy kit fox in the later stages infestation showing hair loss, thickened crusty skin, and emaciation (A). Kit foxes with severe mange cannot hunt and often succumb to starvation and hypothermia. The CALM zoo in Bakersfield is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and has been providing the treatment and veterinary care needed to return affected foxes to good health (Photo B).

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The plight of the Amargosa vole highlighted in recent LA Times article

A Los Angeles Times article released today highlights three Mojave species vulnerable to increasing drought and the long term impacts of climate change.

The CDFW WIL is part of the inter-agency-academia team helping to recover Amargosa vole populations.

An ear tagged amargosa Vole is ready for release.

An ear tagged Amargosa vole is ready for release.  Each tag has a unique number so that biologists can track  the survival of  individual voles. Photo by CDFW.

Click here to read the article and watch a video of our UC Davis partner, Professor Janet Foley, explaining the plight of the vole and demonstrating how we work with voles.

To see our previous post about Amargosa voles click here.

UC Davis, CDFW and USFWS team up to assess western pond turtle health in California

The western pond turtle (Emys marmorata), the only native species of freshwater turtle in California, has been a species of special concern since 1994. Possible causes for declining western pond turtle populations include urbanization and habitat destruction (which often reduces or eliminates basking and nesting sites available near pond
habitat), poor water quality, and reduced survival of young turtles causing the population to be skewed towards aged turtles that don’t reproduce well.

The western pond turtle is California's only native aquatic turtle and a species of conservation concern. (Image courtesy of CDFW Outdoor California March-April 2011)

The western pond turtle is California’s only native aquatic turtle and a species of conservation concern. (Image courtesy of CDFW Outdoor California March-April 2011)

Another challenge to the survival California’s native western pond turtles has been the introduction and spread of non-native red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).  Red-eared sliders were imported for the live food market and are popular in the pet industry, often resulting in illegal pet release. “Sliders” are larger than pond turtles
and outcompete pond turtles for nesting and basking sites.

This is a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta), a common turtle in the pet trade. They compete in the wild with our native Western Pond Turtle, so they should never be released. (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

The Red-eared Slider is a common turtle in the pet trade. They compete in the wild with our native Western Pond Turtle, so they should never be released. (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

It is not known if disease is playing a role in the observed declines of western pond turtles.   Additionally, introductions of non-native red-eared sliders into pond turtle habitat might also introduce new pathogens (disease causing agents like viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) or strains of pathogens that western pond turtles had not been previously exposed to.

Absolutely nothing was known about the pathogens western pond turtles are exposed to in California, so Janet Foley, Joy Worth and then Master’s student, Connie Silbernagel from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Deana Clifford from the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab, and Jamie Bettasco from the US Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up to conduct the first assessment of pathogen presence in western pond turtles across the state. The team also tested non-native red-eared sliders at study sites where both species were living  to see whether or not red-eared sliders carried different pathogens and whether or not western pond turtles living in the same sites as nonnative sliders were more likely to carry different pathogens.

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

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

The team found that both species of turtles carried Mycoplasma spp. bacteria (a cause of respiratory infections) with prevalence being highest at sites in southern California regions. Furthermore native western pond turtles that were infected with Mycoplasma spp bacteria were more likely to weigh less and live in southern California. All turtles tested negative for two common viruses, Herpesviruses and Ranaviruses, and Salmonella bacteria (which can cause gastroenteritis and is a bacteria that can infect people).

Dr. Connie Silbernagel tests the quality of a water sample. Connie earned her Master's degree at UC Davis conducting the western pond turtle health assessment with CDFW and USFWS.

Dr. Connie Silbernagel tests the quality of a water sample. Connie earned her Master’s degree at UC Davis conducting the western pond turtle health assessment with CDFW and USFWS.

This study is the first of its kind to document pathogen prevalence in both native western pond turtles and non-native red-eared sliders and will provide important baseline data as we strive to conserve western pond turtles in California.

Click here to view the abstract:

Silbernagel C, Clifford DL, Bettaso J, Worth S, Foley J. Prevalence of selected pathogens in western pond turtles and sympatric introduced red-eared sliders in California, USA. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 107:37-47

New UC Davis – CDFW Publication describes the pathologic findings from a notoedric mange outbreak in Western gray squirrels from the San Bernardino mountains

A  team from UC Davis–the UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab (CAHFS), CDFW veterinarians Pam Swift and Deana Clifford, and CDFW biologist Jeff Villepique–describe the findings from a notoedric mange outbreak that occurred in 2009 and was thought to be responsible for a significant decline in the number of Western Gray Squirrels in the mountain communities of San Bernardino County.

A western gray squirrel from the San Bernardino Mountains with signs of mange. Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish & Wildlife News, June 23, 2011.

A western gray squirrel from the San Bernardino Mountains with signs of mange. Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish & Wildlife News, June 23, 2011.

The team found that mange infections were quite severe for the affected squirrels, and confirmed through electron microscopy and molecular methods that the mite making squirrels sick was a species called Notoedres centrifera, a mite known to have caused outbreaks in other western gray squirrel populations.

CDFW and UC Davis are continuing to monitor the western gray squirrels in this area using a citizen science website where people can report sightings of both sick and healthy squirrels.

Click here to download the full paper from the International Journal for Parasitology:

Pathologic findings in Western gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus) from a notoedric mange epidemic in the San Bernardino Mountains, California

Nicole Stephenson, Pam Swift, Jeffrey T. Villepique, Deana L. Clifford, Akinyi Nyaoke, Alfonso De la Mora, Janet Moore, and Janet Foley. 2013.  International Journal for Parasitology. Volume 2,  Pages 266–270.