Diseases are a natural part of an ecosystem. Many play a part in the overall balance of ecosystem health. Some wildlife diseases are of greater concern than others because of the ongoing, and in some cases unknown, effects they have on animal populations (e.g. chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer species and white-nose syndrome in bats). Other diseases are of special concern because they are transmissible to humans. These are called zoonotic diseases.
Zoonotic DiseasesBefore we scare you off from visiting your national parks, know that zoonotic diseases in humans are rare and preventable. Below will include information on how to protect yourself from these diseases.
You may have heard of certain zoonotic diseases in the news or from health bulletins. They include tick-borne disease, West Nile virus and hantavirus. Some are native to the United States, others are not. At Devils Tower National Monument, we have documented cases of tularemia in small mammals. A few common-sense practices can lower the risk of you contracting a zoonotic disease:
Monitoring & ResearchPresence of diseases within Devils Tower National Monument is documented and monitored by park biologists. Prairie dog populations are a good indicator of ecosystem health and disease presence. Sudden changes in animal populations can signify presence of diseases such as sylvatic plague.
The park can also provide a healthy haven for wildlife experiencing severe impacts from disease. Research on bats at the Tower is helping biologists learn about protecting the animals from white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease causing high mortality in eastern bat populations.
Disease plays a natural role within habitats; national parks allow us to study the relationships disease has with other parts of the ecosystem. This can lead to better understanding of protecting ourselves and threatened species from diseases, both native and non-native.
Reporting Dead WildlifeIf you are visiting Devils Tower National Monument and see a dead animal, please report it! You can email the park, or call the Resource Management team at 307-467-5283 x212. Please include the type of animal as well as the date, time and location of the specimen.
Last updated: April 1, 2018