December 13, 2012

12 Days of WHER and Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories

Twelve Days of the Wildlife Health Event Reporter 
Day Three: Searching for that Perfect Gift? (That would be WHER data of course!)

As we have mentioned the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER),, is an online system that anyone can use to report their sightings of injured/sick/dead wild animals and receive alerts about new reports. But if everyone is contributing reporters to WHER, you probably want to know what kind of data gifts can WHER give back to you?

With your WHER account (which, of course, as a Digest reader who cares about wildlife health issues, you already have) you can take advantage of WHER's search function. You can combine options from over 10 different search filters (e.g. by date, species, and/or location) to create your own data wish list. The results from your search can be viewed online on a map or in a table. In addition, you can download your data package into an excel spreadsheet to review on your own computer, pull into mapping applications, and other packages.

Go to WHER and find your gift of WHER data today! The perfect gift for the wildlife enthusiast who has everything! 


Stone Soup for Thanksgiving: Understanding Bird Disease through Citizen Science

When somebody opens their front door to pick up the morning newspaper and sees a dead bird below their hedge, they get curious for answers. As soon as they stoop down for a closer look, an Indiana Jones adventure unfolds within the confines of their backyard. Was it poison, disease, predation, starvation, old age? Is this a fluke or widespread plague? Perhaps dead birds like this one are widely scattered across a country. But, if so, what sort of scientific method could find answers to what happened to them all?

When my colleagues and I carry out research using citizen science methods, ... we have a big blank spreadsheet and curious folk are enticed to each add their observations, ultimately creating a robust database with observations from across a continent.

Through citizen science I study healthy birds, but several of my colleagues focus on the sick and dying ones.  ...a research team led by Becki Lawson, a veterinarian and ecologist, reported a new strain of avian pox spreading in a common backyard bird in Great Britain. Citizen science participation was pivotal to tracking the outbreak, unraveling its mysteries, and informing localized studies.
As we've been advocating through our series, Twelve Days of the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), wildlife health observations reported by the everyday citizen are valuable. Each of your reports contributes to a better understanding of wildlife disease ecology.

Get signed up today at!  Join the effort to spot possible health threats in your community!
Science American -
21 Nov 2012
C Cooper

More News on Help from Citizen Scientists

Emerging virus in raccoons may provide cancer clues

Rare brain tumors emerging among raccoons in Northern California and Oregon may be linked to a previously unidentified virus discovered by a team of researchers, led by scientists from the University of California, Davis. Their findings, published today in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, could lead to a better understanding of how viruses can cause cancer in animals and humans.

...The common factor, found in all of the tumors, was a newly described virus, dubbed raccoon polyomavirus. Researchers suspect this virus contributes to tumor formation.

Polyomaviruses, which are prevalent but rarely cause cancer, do not typically cross from one species to another, so the outbreak is not expected to spread to people or other animals.

UC Davis News and Information -
12 Dec 2012

Wildlife Health Bulletin: Cyanobacterial Disease Killing Coral on Kauai, Hawaii

An unusual coral mortality event on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai is currently being investigated. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center Honolulu Field Station (HFS) is collaborating with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii in this coral disease investigation. Scientists have visited two different sites, which are near Hanalei Bay, multiple times to take samples and document extent of the damage. Samples from the lesions have been tested and scientists have determined that a cyanobacterial infection is associated with tissue loss and death. At both sites, coral reefs were heavily degraded with overgrowth of turf algae as well as sediment deposits. See photos at Cyanobacterial Disease in Montipora Coral.

This coral disease outbreak is the first instance where cyanobacterial disease on a large scale has been documented in corals in Hawaii. Lesions are covering 10 – 80 percent of affected colonies. The consistent presentation of gross and microscopic lesions and the absence of this disease in corals elsewhere in Hawaii indicate that this outbreak is an epizootic currently limited to the north shore of Kauai. The HFS has archived tissues of a similar disease in Hanalei Bay from 2009 indicating that cyanobacterial disease in corals on north Kauai has been around since that time.

National Wildlife Health Center -
07 Dec 2012

Reported Wildlife Mortality Events to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center Updated

USGS and a network of partners across the country work on documenting wildlife mortality events in order to provide timely and accurate information on locations, species and causes of death.

This information was updated on December 6, 2012 on the USGS National Wildlife Health Center web page, New and Ongoing Wildlife Mortality Events Nationwide.

Quarterly Mortality Reports are also available from this page. These reports go back to 1995.

USGS National Wildlife Health Center
06 Dec 2012

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