October 17, 2011

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories


Rabbit deaths spark fear of deadly disease outbreak on Hampstead Heath

Sightings of rabbit carcasses with signs of a deadly disease have sparked an investigation into a possible outbreak of a lethal virus on Hampstead Heath.

Park authorities have launched a fact-finding mission following reports of dead rabbits near Kenwood House and Jack Straw’s Castle. The Ham&High has also received eyewitness accounts of rabbits with swollen eyes sitting very still around the Heath – symptoms of myxomatosis.

There are fears the lethal strand could spread to pet rabbits around Hampstead. The disease is near incurable and almost always leads to an agonising death for the affected rabbits.

Park user Maureen Rose, who has seen a few of the afflicted rabbits, said: “They’re dying slowly and the crows are picking them off. It should serve as warning for people to be aware that if they traipse around on the Heath with their dogs, fleas could transfer from the rabbits to their pets and be taken home with them."

London 24 - www.london24.com
13 Oct 2011
Location: Hampstead Heath, England - Map It


Walruses suffer from similar unknown disease afflicting Alaska ringed seals

Arctic ringed seals aren't the only marine mammal suffering an unusual skin-lesion outbreak along Alaska's northern coasts.

Walruses that have hauled out by the thousands at Point Lay in Northwest Alaska during recent summers -- an event driven by climate change -- are also turning up with bizarre, festering sores. Scientists estimate perhaps 600 are infected. Instead of wounds on their faces and rear flippers, red abscesses pepper the animals' entire bodies. But apparently only a few have perished. Still, scientists from a number of agencies are working to answer several questions, including whether the outbreaks in the two species are related. They also worry the lesions could eventually lead to deaths among Pacific walrus, an animal more than 100,000 strong that's being considered for protections under the Endangered Species Act.

"Is it the bubonic plague or just a really bad case of acne?" asked Tony Fischbach, a federal walrus biologist who first noticed the sores on some walruses late this summer.

As in the case of the ringed seals, biologists are working with the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, pathology experts and others. They've sent skin and tissue samples to labs in the U.S. and Canada, but haven't pinpointed a cause. Everything from viruses to toxins are being considered.

Alaska Dispatch - www.alaskadispatch.com
14 Oct 2011
Location: Point Lay, Alaska, USA - Map It


Related Stories
Mysterious Disease Killed Scores of Seals in Alaska

Number of dead seals approaches 100

Federal officials say the number of dead harbor seals found on beaches in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts in the past several weeks is nearing 100, yet the cause remains a mystery.

Meddy Garron, regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday the count is now up to 94 since Sept. 1.

Most of the dead mammals are considered young.

Biologists are awaiting results of necropsies to determine a cause.

Cape Cod Times - www.capecodonline.com
14 Oct 2011
Location: Maine - Map It
; Rockport, Massachusetts -Map It ; New Hampshire

PPhoto courtesy of The Guardian's Week in Wildlife