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What’s Plaguing Prairie Dogs?

Being based in Denver, Morris Animal Foundation staff are very aware of our neighbors who burrow in the high plains of Colorado: prairie dogs. We’re also very concerned with and taking action to combat sylvatic plague, a highly transmittable infectious bacterial disease that is decimating prairie dog colonies throughout the West. 

Sylvatic plague infects wild rodents, such as prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets, and is primarily transmitted among wildlife through flea bites and contact with contaminated fluids or tissue. It is caused by the same bacterium that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague in humans.

Morris Animal Foundation recently funded three studies at the University of Wisconsin that will evaluate how to fight this important disease. Two of the studies are being led by Dr. Jorge Osorio, who is also serving as mentor to fellowship recipient Gebbiena Bron on the third study. These studies are collectively investigating host causes for transmission among prairie dog colonies and are evaluating the efficacy of an oral sylvatic plague vaccine. The results from these studies could be vital for prairie dog conservation.

“Prairie dogs are keystone species in grassland ecosystems, providing both food and habitat for numerous species,” Dr. Osorio says. ”Preventing plague outbreaks in prairie dog colonies contributes not only to their conservation, but also to the conservation of other animal species.”

Read more on how Morris Animal Foundation is working to fight diseases and threats to wildlife and the pets we love.

The greatest gift to animals is a lifetime of good health, help us continue to make them happy and healthy. 

By: Allen Byrne

Categories: Animal welfare
December 10, 2014