December 20, 2007

Deadly Aleutian disease found in wild mink
CBC News -
19 Dec 2007
Area: Canada

Wildlife officials in Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed Wednesday that wild mink have been found with Aleutian disease, the same strain that has plagued the farmed fur industry. The news of the infections comes four months after the Newfoundland and Labrador Fur Breeders Association called for a cull of all farmed mink in the province to stem the spread of the disease. Aleutian disease is highly contagious. It affects the breeding potential of mink and eventually kills the animal by destroying its immune system.

The disease was found on some of the province's commercial mink farms in August. Farmers asked for better legislation, a cull and economic support from the government to repair the damage created by the disease. In September, police learned thousands of cages at a Trinity Bay mink farm were intentionally opened and the animals allowed to escape. Merv Wiseman, president of the province's fur breeders association, said officials have to find out whether that criminal incident and the recent discovery of the disease in the wild are related or whether the disease was already in the province.

Oil Spills are Forever
Mother Jones -
19 Dec 2007
M Mosedale

From San Francisco to South Korea, petroleum disasters are striking with increasing frequency. And those blackened birds are just the beginning of the bad news.

In the six weeks since the Cosco Busan, a Korea-bound container ship, crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, residents have been subjected to a dismal spectacle: coverall-clad rescue workers, set incongruously against the Bay's photogenic vistas, scooping up dead and dying seabirds. As is the case with most oil spills (including the trifecta of recent spills in South Korea, the Black Sea, and the North Sea), birds have been the most conspicuous victims of the Cosco Busan debacle. The official avian death count stands at over 2,400. But biologists think that's probably just the beginning.

In the traditional way of looking at oil spills, the harm assessment is based on what ecologists refer to as the acute mortality phase—in the Bay's case, all those blackened surf scooters and grebes. But in recent years, researchers have found that oil lingers much longer than previously thought and that it continues to harm wildlife for decades. In the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, scientists have traced much of the trouble to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, an especially persistent family of chemicals found in oil that can cause deformities, slower growth, and poorer reproduction in many birds and animals.

State still on safe side of brucellosis
The Billings Gazette -
20 Dec 2007
M Stark
Area: Montana United States

Months of additional tests for brucellosis in Montana cattle have turned up no new cases, Department of Livestock officials said Wednesday. "Definitely we feel significant relief," said Marty Zaluski, state veterinarian at the Livestock Department. So far, 6,235 tests have been conducted on around 3,000 cows. Most were tested in the spring and in the fall. The only positive results for brucellosis came from seven cows from a herd in Bridger tested this spring.

That finding in May threatens Montana's brucellosis-free status, which, if lost, would mean millions of dollars spent testing cattle - and plenty of extra paperwork - before they're marketed. Crews spent much of the spring and fall testing and retesting cows that may have come in contact with the infected herd. The final results came back Tuesday with no new positive cases. "We were certainly holding our breath," said Christian Mackay, executive officer for the Livestock Department. "We're very encouraged by the results. They speak to overall a very clean, healthy cow herd."

Death toll of ghariyals reaches 28
The Times of India -
20 Dec 2007
Area: India

After four bodies that were fished out from Chambal on Tuesday, the death toll of ghariyals in National Chambal Sanctuary has reached 28. State forest department is yet to decode the "mysterious disease" killing the animals. Reptiles continue to die in Madhya Pradesh area as well. No incidents, however, have been reported from part of the sanctuary in Rajasthan. "Yesterday we recovered four bodies, but today we have not found any", said Ramesh Chandra Mishra, conservator Lucknow, Wildlife. The animals that are found dead are all wild, said forest officials on the plea that dead bodies did not show tagging and numbering. Ghariyals left by forest department in the river are tagged and numbered.

These are animals that live in the river and have not been part of the forest department's breeding centres. The dead animals are also adult, between 10 to 15 years of age, claim officials from the department who had been to the spot and seen animals dying. "They come on the banks of the river and wriggle in suffocation and within minutes they die. I have seen three die like this myself", recollected Mishra.

Waterfowl undergo tests for fatal strain of avian flu
Worcester Telegram & Gazette News -
20 Dec 2007
M Hill
Area: Massachusetts United States

More than two dozen waterfowl in town received a surprise lab test on Tuesday, when federal workers netted the birds to take samples to see if any of them have a deadly strain of avian flu. Wild birds in all 50 states are being monitored, and information from the samples feeds into an international effort to watch for transmission of the strain, said Monte D. Chandler of the Wildlife Services Program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The H5N1 strain of avian flu has not yet been found in the United States, Mr. Chandler said. “Of the few avian influenza viruses that have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, H5N1 has caused the largest number of detected cases of severe disease and death in humans,” according to the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To capture the birds, a weighted net is discharged with the use of something similar to a blank charge, Mr. Chandler said. Birds are then collected and swabs are taken of samples to be tested later for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, he said. The birds are released afterward, he said. In Massachusetts, the agricultural department is working on the sample collection with the state Department of Fisheries & Wildlife. Each of the two agencies is to collect 375 birds over a year, he said.

Photo courtesy of AFP/File Photo


Elk use of wallows and potential chronic wasting disease transmission [online abstract only]
Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 2007; 43(4): 784-788
KC VerCauteren et al.

The influence of exposure history on arsenic accumulation and toxicity in the killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus [online abstract only]
Environmental toxicology and chemistry. 2007 Dec; 26(12): 2704-9
JR Shaw et al.

Parasite Threat to Panda Conservation [online abstract only]
EcoHealth. 2007 Dec; [Epub ahead of print]
J Zhang et al.

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