November 6, 2013

Panel looks at elk hoof woes and more wildlife disease news


South Carolina Copperhead Is First Snake Positive For Snake Fungal Disease In State

A copperhead snake found in Spartanburg County has tested positive for the fungus, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus linked to Snake Fungal Disease (SFD). This is the first verified case of Snake Fungal Disease in South Carolina according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

According to the news release, Copperhead Institute scientists retrieved a Copperhead from Spartanburg County that exhibited symptoms of fungal infection. The snake subsequently died and was submitted to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, where a necropsy was performed. Results indicate the presence of Snake Fungal Disease and dehydration as the cause of death.

“The emergence of Snake Fungal Disease is of great concern. It is being detected more and more frequently in wild populations,” said S.C. Department of Natural Resources herpetologist Will Dillman. “Those populations may not be well equipped to deal with a novel pathogen. Its association with significant population declines in some species is troubling.”

The Global Dispatch
18 Oct 2013
R Herimann
Location: Spartanburg Co., South Carolina, USA - Map It

Panel looks at elk hoof woes

So many questions still surround the hoof disease outbreak in Southwest Washington elk. And despite involvement by national laboratories and nine universities, the answers are elusive and coming at a painfully slow rate.

The first meeting of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Hoof Disease Public Working Group was in Vancouver on Wednesday. The panel includes county commissioners, timber company representatives, academics, businessmen and representatives of sportsmen's and conservation organizations.

Sporadic reports of lame elk or elk with overgrown or missing hooves in the Cowlitz River basin began in the mid-1990s. The epicenter was the Boistfort-Wildwood Valley. Since 2008, reports of elk with hoof disease have increased and spread west to Pacific County, north to Lewis County and south to Clark County. Due to the rapid increase in sightings since 2008, scientists believe a new disease may have entered the elk population.

So much is not known, including how the disease is transmitted and if there are any treatments. Obviously, treatments possible on domestic livestock will not work on elk in the wild. Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife program manager, said it's not known yet how prevalent the disease is in the wild population.

The agency started collecting samples in 2009. This March, elk as young as 9 to 10 months with acute lesions were killed for analysis. This August, calves as young a 3 to 4 months with acute lesions were harvested for analysis. Similar age elk in unaffected populations also were harvested.

Analyses includes checking of organs, tissue, muscle, trace minerals, parasites and blood. The disease affects males and females equally, all ages, any hoof and there are no reports of an increase in domestic livestock hoof diseases.

Testing shows no evidence of significant inflammation or infection above the hooves, even in severely crippled animals. "That is a really important finding for us and a frequently asked question,'' Jonker said. And while research continues, the thorny question of what to do about managing the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds persists.

The Columbian
24 Oct 2013
A Thomas

Frog Herbicide Exposure Increases Risk of Dying from Fungal Disease

Amphibians are declining across the globe. The increase of pollution and changing climate are drastically impacting these animal populations. Now, scientists have discovered something else about this amphibian decline. It turns out that the combination of the herbicide atrazine and a fungal disease is particularly deadly to frogs. The findings could help inform future decisions about where and when to use this particular chemical.

"Understanding how stressors cause enduring health effects is important because these stressors might then be avoided or mitigated during formative developmental stages to prevent lasting increases in disease susceptibility," said Jason Rohr, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In order to examine how atrazine might impact frogs, the researchers exposed frogs to the compound. They found that a six-day exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of atrazine, one of the most common herbicides in the world, increased frog mortality 46 days after the exposure, but only when the frogs were also exposed to the chytrid fungus. It's likely that the atrazine exposure reduced the frogs' tolerance of the infection.

That's not all the researchers found, though. They also discovered that there was no evidence of recovery from the atrazine exposure and the atrazine-induced increase in disease susceptibility was independent of when the atrazine exposure occurred during tadpole development.

"These findings are important because they suggest that amphibians might need to be exposed only to atrazine briefly as larvae for atrazine to cause persistent increases in their risk of chytri-induced mortality," said Rohr in a news release. "Our findings suggest that reducing early-life exposure of amphibians to atrazine could reduce lasting increases in the risk of mortality from a disease associated with worldwide amphibian declines."

Science World Report
24 Oct 2013
C Griffin

Related Journal Article
J. R. Rohr, T. R. Raffel, N. T. Halstead, T. A. McMahon, S. A. Johnson, R. K. Boughton, L. B. Martin. Early-life exposure to a herbicide has enduring effects on pathogen-induced mortality. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1772): 20131502 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1502

Bighorn sheep researchers launch outreach website

To engage and inform the public, the Bighorn Sheep Disease Research Consortium -- including researchers from Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences -- has launched is aimed at communicating to a diverse audience groundbreaking science led by the consortium, an interdisciplinary group of researchers that includes Huck Institutes scientists Raina Plowright, Peter Hudson and Kezia Manlove. Consortium members also include Frances Cassirer at Idaho Fish and Game, Thomas Besser at Washington State University and collaborators at the state wildlife agencies of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Plowright, Hudson and Manlove are currently conducting field studies of bighorn sheep pneumonia that build on a long-term dataset compiled by the consortium.

"We created to disseminate our work to an audience that includes teachers, scientists, policymakers and members of the public who are interested in wildlife and wildlife diseases," said Plowright, a Huck Institutes research associate. "The website will contain lesson plans and other curricula for teachers to explain basic concepts about wildlife disease ecology to students of different ages, and one of our field assistants -- Chad Dotson -- will help to test these lessons and ideas at a school in Enterprise, Oregon, very close to some of the herds being studied.

Pennsylvania State University News
23 Oct 2013
S Palmer

Update on Unusual Mid-Atlantic Dolphin Mortality Event
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