Wildlife Health Branch

A young elk with a technically sophisticated collar around its neck
Without technology, such as the radio-telemetry collar around this elk's neck, the Wildlife Health Branch would not be able to learn important characteristics of a healthy herd.

NPS Photo.

One component of the National Park Service (NPS) mission is to conserve the "wild life" and natural processes within its units. Wild life includes everything from large mammals, like bears and moose, to the smallest organisms, such as bacteria and parasites. Native organisms that cause disease may be part of the naturally functioning ecosystem that is protected within a park. The health of these ecosystems contribute to the overall health of all species - plants, animals, and us!

Today, wildlife are more often victims of diseases that are emerging due to human activities and changing landscapes. In these cases prevention and management are often necessary to protect and sustain healthy wildlife populations. Wildlife and ecosystem health are key components of the "One Health" concept, which recognizes that the health of humans, animals and the environment are interconnected. A holistic, One Health approach is needed to understand, protect, and promote the health of all species.

Wildlife populations are affected by diseases of all types, every day. However, some diseases are of particular concern within units of the National Park System and are the focus of active monitoring, management and research. Some examples include: bat white-nose syndrome, rabies, plague, tularemia, bighorn sheep pneumonia complex, chronic wasting disease, bovine brucellosis, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, amphibian chytridiomycosis, avian botulism, and West Nile virus. The threat of introduction of diseases not currently in the United States, such as foot-and-mouth disease, are also of concern.
A petrel is held gently on the lap by a gloved vet

NPS Institutional Animal Care and Use

The NPS IACUC ensures humane care and use of wild animals

A small elk calf hides in the dense brush

Wildlife Health and Disease Topics

Topics of importance to parks to maintain the health of wildlife and visitors

A ground squirrel om search for food in the green grass

Wildlife Management Principles

When should and should not an animal population or community be managed

For NPS employees only, visit the Wildlife Health Branch's internal website, here.

Last updated: April 5, 2018