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Sarcoptic mange strikes the Absaroka Pack

3-11-2002. Update 3-12 and 4-1.

The latest gray wolf progress report indicated that the Absaroka Pack has contracted the mange. This is a pack of 7-8 wolves that formed in 1999 east of Yellowstone Park. In fact they are the most easterly pack in Wyoming, except perhaps the newly discovered Greybull Pack.

Two members of the pack, including the alpha male, which was captured for radio collaring, were reported to have the mange and were in poor condition. The two wolves were located in separate places down at low elevations, apparently trying to get out of the snow. Mange results in substantial loss of fur. Mortality is often due to wintertime hypothermia. The infestation must be new because when 4 radio collars were deployed in the pack last September it was noted the wolves were in good condition.

Sarcoptic mange is caused by an infestation of almost microscopic mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) that cause severe itching, loss of fur, resulting in hypothermia and/or secondary infection with bacteria which may kill the animal. Canids: wolves, fox and coyotes are very susceptible. Wolves are the least susceptible of the 3 canids. Dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, cats, and sometimes horses, can also be affected. Humans can also be infected. The condition is called scabies.

The infestation is easily treated in captive animals with a shot of Ivermectin. The alpha male was captured, but was not treated because the crew had no Ivermectin. Ed Bangs, said, however, that because mange has appeared, the drug will be carried by future radio-collaring and other capture crews.

Canids can and do survive mange, but once the animal has declined to poor condition, recovery is not likely. If part of the wolf pack is infested, probably all of it is. If the pack survives, it will often change its habits, such as change its den site or its range which has the effect of moving the wolves out of the area of infection.

Mange is one natural way the population of canids is controlled. It can be spread from one canid to another species, and from one pack to another, although decimation of populations of large areas is rare.

Manage has appeared in the past in some Montana wolf packs. It is present in Canada and some wolves have been lost to mange in Wisconsin.

Update 3-12. I talked with Mike Jimenez, who actually captured and handled the mangy alpha male. Jimenez said that aerial and on-the-ground observation of the rest of the pack (3-5 wolves) did not show them to have perceptible mange. The 2 wolves with mange were not with the pack.

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  Copyright 2002 Ralph Maughan

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