USGS at The Wildlife Society: From sea-ice change to contaminants to predators and prey

th lower levels. Thus environmental factors are also important contributing factors to predation and survival with Yellowstone elk calves. Shannon M. Barber-Meyer, University of Minnesota (St. Paul), and David Mech, USGS, Session 24, Monday, Sep 25, 2006, 1:20- 1:40 p.m.

The effects of sylvatic plague on black-footed ferret recovery:

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is one of the most highly endangered mammals in North America. Once thought to be extinct, a captive breeding and recovery program was established for ferrets in 1987. Although the breeding program has been highly successful and ferret populations (about 500 animals) have been established in several western states, the recovery effort is seriously threatened by sylvatic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Research indicates that there may be a partial management solution to this problem in vaccinating both black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs against plague. A plague vaccine for prairie dogs that can be delivered via oral baits has been shown to be efficacious in laboratory experiments and may provide a better method of managing the disease for both prairie dogs and ferrets. Plague was introduced into U.S. seaports in the early 1900's via commensal rodents and quickly spread into native rodent populations, including prairie dogs (Cynomys species). Mortality in plague-infected prairie dog colonies often reaches 95-99 percent, and the disease frequently results in local extinctions and population reductions followed by partial recovery. Plague in prairie dog towns significantly impacts black-footed ferret survival by destroying their primary prey base. In addition, the black-footed ferret is susceptible to the disease, suffering high mortality rates upon plague infection in captivity and in the laboratory. In 2005, a plague outbreak killed numerous black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in South Dakota about 30 miles south of Conata Basin, where

Contact: Catherine Puckett
United States Geological Survey

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