LOCAL NEWS

Wildlife experts looking into unusual numbers of tularemia deaths among beavers in state

Apr 16, 2024, 6:42 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2024, 8:53 am

SALT LAKE CITY The Utah Department of Natural Resources has identified 10 animals that have died from tularemia — a disease that can be transmitted to humans.

So wildlife experts are urging people to be extra cautious while in the outdoors.

“It’s very rare,” said Virginia Stout, a state veterinarian with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “…it’s not common at all. We do see cases pop up here and there periodically, but not this many at one time.”

So far, nine beavers and one vole have been found dead in the last few weeks. And according to a DWR news release, all the beavers were found dead in Summit, Wasatch and Utah counties. Five of the dead beavers were found near the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter between March 23 and April 2.

“We may never know the answer,” Stout said. “But it could be a tick that started this, but we’re just not sure at this time.”

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” is caused by a bacteria.

“Rabbits, hares, other rodents, muskrats, things like that, are most affected by this,” Stout said.

Stout said she is trying to learn all she can about the disease.

“As a veterinarian, we want to know how this happened, where it’s going on, and how many animals are affected,” she said.

Tularemia can be fatal to humans

It’s worrysome for experts because the disease can be fatal to humans.

“It’s a bacteria that spread through either direct contact with an animal that has it or through deer flies or tick bites,” Stout said.

However, it can be easily treated.

“But it’s a very treatable bacteria that just the normal course of antibiotics will treat,” said Josh Loftin, spokesperson with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Loftin offers a few tips for those people heading into the outdoors.

“Don’t drink stream water,” he said. “Don’t touch dead animals, don’t do other things that expose you to bacteria.”

Wildlife experts want people to report any dead beavers, rabbits or other larger rodents that they might encounter.

“To have this many carcasses show up is unusual,” Stout said. “If it does happen more and more, we are concerned about that local beaver population.”

Experts do say the disease can not be spread from human to human.

 

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Wildlife experts looking into unusual numbers of tularemia deaths among beavers in state