Clusters of mange-infested black bears are popping up across Virginia, with “hundreds” of the species now spreading the highly contagious skin mites at an alarming rate.
It’s a sight no Outsider likes to see. Whether on a rescue dog, beloved cat, or the wildlife calling our great outdoors home, mange is an uncomfortable, sometimes-deadly condition known to mammals the world over. Coming into September, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is now reporting at least 75 reports of black bears with mange in the state.
In Virginia, state biologists tell local CBS 59 their bears are looking “pathetic and sick,” with large clumps of hair missing. Mange affects black bears in the same way as other mammals, including our pets – and even humans As the outlet’s images below show, a mangy black bear will drop the majority of its fur – a familiar sight to anyone who’s ever encountered a mange-ridden dog or cat. Elevated cases will cause severe scabbing of the skin, and can lead to death.
Virginia’s DWR is moving to control the cluster outbreaks, yet doing so is no easy task. Studies on mangy black bear populations have already begun, but the state is home to around 20,000 black bears. Getting ahead of a condition as contagious as mange within such a large population will be a herculean undertaking, indeed.
As such, the DWR is asking fellow Virginians to please call in any reports of bears with mange:
IF YOU SEE A BEAR WITH MANGE, PLEASE CONTACT THE WILDLIFE CONFLICT HELPLINE AT (855) 571-9003. DO NOT APPROACH, FEED, OR ATTEMPT TO TREAT THE ANIMAL WITH MEDICATION.VirginiaWildlife.gov
Mangy Black Bears Cause Concern for Virginia Wildlife, Pets, and Citizens
Mange begins in any mammal with mites. It is a highly contagious skin disease that affects many wild and domestic species, the DWR cites. Mange is then spread by direct contact with infected individuals and through the sharing of feed, objects, habitat, or any areas of use.
While Virginia’s DWR is unsure of the exact cause of this breakout, they note in a previous press release that the most common cause of mange in Virginia black bears is Sarcoptes scabiei: a mite that burrows into the skin and is so tiny that it can only be seen through a microscope.
To help identify a bear with mange, the DWR cites the following clinical symptoms:
- Intense itching
- Hair loss
- Thickened, dry skin covered by scabs or tan crusts
- Altered behavior – Unaware or not concerned with their surroundings
While the condition is rarely fatal, it can lead to horrible infestations in wildlife and domestic populations. In severe cases, an animal – black bears included -will be captured and euthanized to both end suffering and help control outbreaks.
In short: if you see a bear resembling a mangy, hairless dog, call it in immediately. By doing so, Virginia Outsiders can do their part in helping to control this crippling black bear outbreak.