International Symposium Examines Effects of Plague on Wildlife

The deadly effects of plague on wildlife and efforts to understand and control it will be discussed by international experts at a symposium, Nov. 4-6 at the Hilton Hotel in Fort Collins.

Sylvatic plague is a fleaborne disease that can spread rapidly across a landscape, decimating wildlife and threatening human health. The Symposium on the Ecology of Plague and its Effects on Wildlife, hosted by the USGS, Colorado State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Centers for Disease Control, will bring together over 140 international scientists and wildlife managers.  Sessions will cover how plague behaves in the wild; the influence of climate and other environmental factors on the occurrence, spread and persistence of plague; the role of rodents and other species in plague transmission; management, control, and surveillance of plague; and impacts of plague on wildlife populations.

Conservation and recovery efforts for imperiled species are greatly hampered by the effects of the disease. Mortality approaching 100% has been documented in plague-stricken prairie dog colonies. Recovery efforts for the endangered black-footed ferret have been severely affected by plague, which kills both ferrets and the prairie-dog prey base on which they depend.

Other animals of conservation concern that are at risk from the effects of plague include the threatened Utah prairie dog, Gunnison’s prairie dog, and Northern and Southern Idaho ground squirrels. Additionally, big cats and some members of the rabbit family are susceptible. In Colorado, five introduced lynx were found infected with plague, three died from the disease.

Dr. Rita Colwell, distinguished professor at University of Maryland and John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation, will present the keynote address, "Climate, Ecology and Infectious Disease." Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado, a veterinarian, will present opening remarks. Scientists from the

U.S. and eight other countries will attend and present papers.

For more information on the Symposium on the Ecology of Plague and its Effects on Wildlife, visit