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Απρίλιος 07, 2021

(Northern CA) California Bear Cubs Developing Unexplained Illness That Makes Them Unafraid of Humans

Original source: https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/california-bear-cubs-developing-unexplained-illness-that-makes-them-unafraid-of-humans-1.5368590

By: Brooklyn Neustaeter
March 30, 2021

TORONTO -- Scientists are warning about an unexplained neurological disorder found in black bear cubs in California that causes the animals to exhibit uncharacteristic and overly friendly behaviours.

But they aren't sure why this is happening.

According to a press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), four cubs in the past 12 months have shown "dog-like" behaviours, including being comfortable around humans.

The CDFW says it encountered one of these bears last month -- a small, female black bear – in Pollock Pines, east of Sacramento.

The CDFW was alerted to the bear after it had moved into a residential backyard.

A biologist with the department reported that the bear was lethargic, underweight, and showed no fear of people, picking up apples and eating them in front of the residents on their backyard patio.

The CDFW said the bear did not respond to the people yelling or clapping, and at one point jumped into a housekeeper's open car trunk.

"Physically and mentally, the bear just didn’t seem quite right, walking oddly, dull and not responsive like a normal bear should be," the department said in the release.

According to the release, the bear was taken to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory for observation by veterinarians. They reported that the cub displayed "intermittent head tremors" and a subtle head tilt, which are "troubling signs of neurological abnormalities."

According to preliminary findings, scientists say the behaviours are linked to encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain.

However, the CDFW says the root cause of the inflammation "remains a mystery."

While scientists aren’t sure what's causing the encephalitis, they’ve identified five new viruses in the sick bears, though the department says their relationship to the condition and the neurological disorders aren’t clear.

The CFDW previously told The Sacramento Bee that the viruses don’t appear to be a risk to humans.

Officials in Nevada were first to notice the abnormal behaviours in bears, alerting wildlife colleagues in California in 2014 to growing human encounters in the Tahoe Basin with young black bears.

The CDFW says the situation has become more common elsewhere around the state.

One bear with these symptoms gained attention on social media in 2019 when it approached a snowboarder at the Northstar ski resort. In a video shared to Instagram, the bear is seen stepping onto the snowboard and sniffing the snowboarder's pant leg.

That bear, named Benji, was treated for the disorder at the San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Campus. He is now three-years-old and continues to live at the campus.

Despite this, the CFDW says Benji's story is "something of a cautionary tale" as he has never fully recovered and has required "significant veterinary care" over the years.

CDFW wildlife veterinarian Brandon Munk said in the release that it is "not possible" for these neurologically impaired bears to be released back into the wild, for fear of spreading the disease to other animals.

"At this point, we don’t know what causes the encephalitis so we don’t know what, if any, health risks these bears might pose to other animals," Munk explained.

Munk said that having the bears live the rest of their lives out at a zoo or wildlife sanctuary is a rare scenario, as care expenses are difficult for many wildlife facilities to take on and limit placement options.

"The few bears like this we have placed do not seem to fully recover, some requiring significant medical management for the life of the bear, which is a huge burden for these facilities that often operate on tight budgets," he said.

The female black bear found in Pollock Pines was euthanized. The CDFW says a post-mortem examination is underway.

Posted on Απρίλιος 07, 2021 0504 ΠΜ by out_west_jess out_west_jess | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Απρίλιος 10, 2021

(Northern CA) Mysterious Disease Killing Young California Bears in Tahoe. One symptom: Fearlessness

Original source: https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article250247805.html

MARCH 27, 2021

The video of a small bear, its head tilted at an inquisitive angle, caught ambling up to a Tahoe snowboarder was the sort of clueless cuteness guaranteed to go viral.

But for scientists, it was just too cute to be true.

The bear cub was exhibiting behavior — fearlessness at being around humans — that’s been popping up in bears around the state, due to a mysterious lethal condition that causes their brains to become dangerously inflamed.

Scientists’ suspicions were confirmed when veterinarians gave the Tahoe bear an exam after it was captured not long after the snowboarder filmed it at the Northstar resort in Truckee in 2019. It had encephalitis, which can also be caused by a body’s immune system attacking itself.

State veterinarians say that in the past 12 months alone, officials have captured three other bears with the same condition, which biologists in California and Nevada have been documenting in the region’s black bears since 2014.

Bears normally shy away from humans. Even the densely populated bears in the Tahoe Basin that have lost much of their fear of humans and saunter down residential streets usually still take off when approached.

But these sick young bears don’t run away.

The most recent bear to come down with the condition was a 21-pound female that biologists captured last fall in Pollock Pines. The sickly, confused bear showed no fear of the humans who took pity on it and began feeding it. At one point, it hopped into an open car trunk, state wildlife officials said.

The bear, which should have weighed close to 80 pounds for its age, was covered in ticks when it was eventually captured and taken to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wildlife investigation lab.

Like almost all of the bears captured with the same symptoms, which include head tremors and a subtle head tilt, the bear was so sickly, veterinarians had to put it down.


The bears with the inflamed brains have been found on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and as far away as Humboldt County.

The new viruses in some of the affected bears don’t appear to pose a risk to people, said Jamie Sherman, a veterinarian at UC Davis’ One Health Institute who’s studied bear diseases.

So far, whatever is sickening these bears also seems to have had little effect on California’s growing black bear population which in 1982 was estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 bears, and is now conservatively estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 animals.

Black bears are not endangered. The Tahoe region has some of the largest bear densities in the nation, and they live-year round alongside the vacation homes and campsites seeking human food and garbage.

The bears, which have increasingly been ransacking homes looking for easy meals, have a devoted local fanbase. The bears in Tahoe are so frequently seen, local animal lovers give them names and sometimes hold vigils when they die.

Sherman said that could be why many of the bears with brain inflammation are turning up in the Lake Tahoe region — symptomatic bears could simply be spotted and reported to biologists more often, unlike a bear in the woods that gets sick and dies far from people.

“What wildlife managers think about a lot is, when you’re in an area where animals are very charismatic, as well as having a high human population that’s invested in that population, the symptoms are more likely to be seen,” she said.

But that being said, Sherman did caution that the way the bears live in the Tahoe Basin — lots of bears living in close proximity, sharing bodily fluids at the same food sources — are the sorts of conditions that allow diseases to spread faster among a population.

That they live close to humans also increases the possible risk of a virus jumping the species barrier, a concern that became much more in the public consciousness after early reports linked the virus that causes COVID-19 with Chinese “wet markets,” places where wildlife are bought and sold.

But Sherman said a recent study on the bear disease found little risk of that so far.

“The viruses that they detected in these bears were not ones particularly known to affect humans,” Sherman said.

Sherman noted that wildlife, pets and livestock have a host of viruses unique to those individual species that have never jumped to people.


Still, she said it pays to be careful around bear bodily fluids.

Tahoe homeowners who’ve had a bear break-in report that they often find the house slathered in bear saliva, urine and feces, and sometimes blood as the bears rummage around looking for food.

Sherman advised anyone cleaning up such a mess to wear rubber gloves and possibly a face shield if there’s a risk of spatters, and use a 10-percent bleach solution for cleaning.

“Essentially, I think that it should be the same risks that you would take cleaning up any bodily fluids,” she said.

Luckily for the bear caught on camera sniffing the snowboarder’s pant leg, the condition wasn’t so severe it had to be put down.

The bear, now 3, has since been named Benji, and moved to the San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Campus. But it never fully recovered and needs constant veterinary care. State wildlife officials called it a cautionary tale.

The bear would never survive if it was released back into the wild, and now Benji could require a lifetime of treatment, a costly prospect that means he’s taking up space and resources that could be used to treat other animals that do have a shot of someday returning to their natural homes.

Posted on Απρίλιος 10, 2021 1211 ΠΜ by out_west_jess out_west_jess | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο