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Pathogen prevalence in American black bears (Ursus americanus) of the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, USA

October 9, 2019

Informed management of American black bears (Ursus americanus) requires knowledge of the distribution and pathology of diseases affecting the species. Little information is available on pathogen prevalence from black bear populations in the Southwest, US, and it is unknown how these infections may influence black bear populations or disease transmission. We captured New Mexico black bears (Ursus americanus amblyceps) during 2016–17 as part of a long-term monitoring project and opportunistically collected 36 blood samples from 12 female and 17 male black bears. We wanted to determine prior exposure to canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, West Nile virus, Toxoplasma gondii, and the tick-borne pathogens, Anaplasma spp., Ehrlichia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi, Rickettsia spp., and Babesia spp. Approximately half (55%, 16/29) of the individuals sampled had antibodies to Y. pestis, and 37% (10/27) had antibodies to T. gondii. Prevalence of antibodies to West Nile virus, F. tularensis, and canine parvovirus were lower (i.e., 11, 10, and 3%, respectively). We detected no antibodies to canine distemper, B. burgdorferi, Rickettsia spp., or Babesia spp. We documented changes in antibody titer levels for both sexes of several recaptured black bears. Our data will inform managers of pathogen prevalence and distribution in black bears in north-central New Mexico and provide a vital baseline dataset for future pathogen monitoring. Additionally, these data support actions to minimize exposure through handling wild individuals or through hunter harvest activities.

Publication Year 2019
Title Pathogen prevalence in American black bears (Ursus americanus) of the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, USA
DOI 10.7589/2018-12-286
Authors Susan M. Bard, James W. Cain III
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Index ID 70223513
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle