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wildlife services

Rabies and Vampire Bats

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios.

The Little-Known Threat to Wild Turkeys

Spring brings new life to the fields and forests and wild turkeys are one of the most interesting spectacles this time of year. Male turkeys gobble and strut to attract the attention of hen turkeys. Hens, in turn, go off and lay their eggs- one egg each day until the clutch is complete and the hens then begin incubation.

Unfortunately, this spring more than ever, wild turkeys across the U.S. are facing an increasing threat from a new and rapidly expanding population of nest predators…feral swine. Feral swine, also known as wild pigs, feral hogs, and wild boars, are not native to North America and are the descendants of domestic swine which either escaped or were liberated. In some cases, feral swine are intentionally released to create new hunting opportunities. But these opportunities come at the expense of other wildlife, including ground nesting birds such as the wild turkey. Feral swine are highly adaptable and can learn to seek out turkey nests even before the hen starts incubation, consuming the eggs when left unprotected. When a partially completed clutch is depredated, the hen is forced to start over, depleting vital reserves within herself as well as risking lower nest success and chick survival.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week: Snakes, Starlings, and Swine, Oh my!

This month USDA highlights some of the important partners that work with us to care for our land, air, water, and wildlife.  The National Invasive Species Council is one such group.

When you hear the word “invasive,” most people automatically think of bugs and weeds. Unfortunately, invasives (or non-native pests) can also include wildlife, such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

Brown Tree Snake Research Wins DoD's 2015 Resource Conservation Project of the Year

This month USDA highlights some of the important partnerships that work with us to care for our land, air and water.  The work stretches into areas and takes USDA employees to places you wouldn’t suspect.

For example, the damage wreaked by invasive brown tree snakes on Guam is hard to imagine.

Infestations of the snake have led to the loss of all but two of the twelve native forest birds on the island, millions of dollars in damages to the island’s electrical power grid, and physical injuries to residents from snake bites.

Events Highlight the Impact of Rabies on People, Pets and Wildlife

What do raccoons, vampire bats, and mongooses have in common? All are wildlife species that are commonly associated with rabies and can potentially expose people, pets and livestock to the deadly virus.  

The significant impact of rabies on public and animal health will be the focus of the 26th Rabies in the Americas conference in Fort Collin, Colorado, on October 4-8.  This is the first time this important international conference will be held in Colorado and be hosted by APHIS, according to Richard Chipman, coordinator for APHIS-Wildlife Services’ (WS) National Rabies Management Program.

Rabies Research and Prevention Subject of Student's Winning Logo

Come this October, Katie Clonan is looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor all over Fort Collins, Colorado. That’s because Katie is the winner of the 2015 Rabies in the Americas (RITA) logo contest.  Her logo will be showcased on t-shirts, banners, and other paraphernalia shared with more than 300 attendees of the 26th annual RITA conference from October 4-8 in Fort Collins.

“This is the first time the international Rabies in the Americas conference has been held in Colorado,” notes Dr. Stephanie Shwiff, one of several USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) scientists helping to plan the event. “We’re excited to host the conference with our colleagues in the Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program and other members of the RITA planning committee. One of my favorite tasks so far has been partnering with Colorado State University’s (CSU) Department of Art and Art History to sponsor a logo contest.”

Dogs Help Protect Livestock Against Predators

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is helping to provide livestock producers in the western United States with livestock guard dogs that offer greater protection against predators.

Generally large and white with shaggy hair, livestock protection dogs are trained to respond aggressively to predators such as wolves, bears, and coyotes. Guard dogs are often used in the sheep industry as a method of non-lethal predator management because of their perceived effectiveness and low cost to producers. According to a 2010 American Sheep Industry survey, guard dog use is only second to shed lambing at effectively reducing depredation. Shed lambing, that is, raising lambs exclusively indoors, however is more than 9 times the annual cost of using a dog for lamb protection. Owing to the low cost of using livestock protection dogs, they are extremely valuable to the sheep industry. According to Michael Marlow, resource management specialist for APHIS’ Wildlife Services program, many producers are certain they’d be out of business without them.

Helping Businesses Grow: NWRC Wins 2015 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer

John Eisemann spends much of his time on the phone or in meetings talking to USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC, Center) partners and stakeholders.  As the Technology Transfer Program Manager for the Center, John works with private companies, international groups, and non-governmental organizations to encourage the development and licensing of new wildlife damage management products.

The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 changed how Federal Government research and development entities, like NWRC, do business. The Act allows Federal laboratories and industry to form commercial partnerships that enhance the development of new technologies and move them to the marketplace to meet public and consumer needs.

#Together Against Rabies: APHIS-Wildlife Services Works to Prevent Rabies

This year’s World Rabies Day theme “Together Against Rabies” is appropriate given the number and diversity of organizations around the world focused on preventing the spread of rabies in people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

Since 2007, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control has sponsored World Rabies Day on September 28 to promote rabies awareness and reduce rabies transmission. For its part, the APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) program has been working cooperatively with local, State, and Federal governments, international partners, universities and others since 1995 to prevent the spread of rabies in wildlife in North America.

Recovering a Native: USDA Agencies Help with Endangered Ferret Reintroductions

You can hear the chattering and scurrying from far away as six endangered black-footed ferrets restlessly wait in their travel carriers.  These animals are the first of more than thirty scheduled for release this fall onto 34 square miles of prairie habitat at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Meadow Springs Ranch in northern Colorado. The site is one of several new areas recently offered by local, State and Federal land management agencies and private landowners as reintroduction sites to aid in the recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret— America’s only native ferret.

Once thought to be extinct, black-footed ferrets are making a comeback thanks to a successful captive breeding program, multiple reintroduction sites across the West, and the hard work of many government agencies, non-governmental organizations, Tribes, private landowners, and concerned citizens.