Sylvatic Plague Confirmed in Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Mortality in Grasslands National Park
As a precautionary measure, Parks Canada is advising the public that a single prairie dog death due to sylvatic plague has occurred within the Broken Hills prairie dog colony in Grasslands National Park. In addition, two dead ground squirrels were discovered and have been sent for testing. Sylvatic plague is a rare but naturally occurring disease in wildlife in this region. There is a very low risk to human health and safety and it is extremely rare for humans to contract the disease. The last confirmed case of human infection in Canada was in 1939 and was not fatal.
The safety of visitors and staff is Parks Canada's top priority. Grasslands National Park is collaborating with the appropriate provincial and federal government agencies to address this situation and ensure public safety. As a precautionary measure, Parks Canada is closing the Broken Hills prairie dog colony to visitors. Closed areas will be clearly marked and Parks Canada staff will make information available to visitors. Parks Canada staff are dusting burrows in the Broken Hills colony with the insecticide DeltaDust (deltamethrin) to mitigate the potential spread of the disease. The insecticide works by killing fleas that could carry the disease. Parks Canada will continue to closely monitor the prairie dog population and conduct further disease surveillance within the park.
Grasslands National Park remains open for public use and enjoyment. Other prairie dog colonies in the park are still accessible to the public at this time. Since 2010, all prairie dog colonies in Grasslands National Park have been closed to all domestic animals to prevent the possibility of pets carrying infected fleas back to their owners.
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