Zoonotic Diseases in Wildlife Populations

Grand Canyon National Park is an area of astonishing natural beauty, a place where people can experience solitude and natural landscapes, and a vibrant ecosystem of diverse plants and wildlife species. As is true for all wild places, natural hazards are an inherent part of the Grand Canyon landscape.

Diseases may be transmitted through contact, when people touch or feed wildlife.
Diseases may be transmitted through contact, when people touch or feed wildlife.


One of the inconspicuous, or insidious, hazards associated with wildlife are the infectious diseases that they may carry. In some situations, these diseases may be transmitted through simple contact, such as that which occurs when people touch or feed wildlife. Humans may also be exposed to these diseases through animal droppings, via fleas or ticks that their pets contracted from infected wildlife, and by handling dead animals. Sick animals may behave especially unpredictably, and may even act aggressively towards or bite humans. Given the serious nature of many of the diseases that wildlife species may carry, everyone who visits or lives in the Grand Canyon region needs to be aware of the diseases, how to protect themselves against exposure to these infectious agents, and the importance of seeking medical care immediately if they suspect that they may have been exposed to them.

Many zoonotic diseases have flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and chills. When you suspect that may have been exposed to a zoonotic disease and are seeking medical care, it is essential that you tell your physician that you may have been exposed to infectious agents carried by wildlife or their parasites.

Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Wildlife species in and around Grand Canyon National Park may carry a wide variety of such diseases, including, but not limited to, plague, Hantavirus, rabies, and tick-borne relapsing fever, which has been documented only on the North Rim.

Flea that is a carrier of the plague bacterium.
This flea is a carrier of plague.

CDC PHOTO BY John Montenieri

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from contracting any zoonotic disease is to:


People should also avoid rodent burrows and fleas, treat their pets for flea control, and use a bleach solution, Lysol, or other recommended agent when cleaning any household or garage area that may contain rodent droppings.


Related Information

The National Park Service’s Public Health Program’s web site: https://www.nps.gov/public_health/di/di.htm contains a wealth of information about plague, Hantavirus, rabies, tick-borne diseases, and other zoonotic diseases that may be present in the Grand Canyon region. Fact sheets about zoonotic diseases are available by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
also provides comprehensive information about zoonotic diseases.




Tick-borne Relapsing Fever http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/RelapsingFever/index.htm

Additional information about other zoonotic diseases may be found on the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov) by using the search function.

Last updated: September 22, 2017

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