Seen and Heard Blog

Treasure Valley Ground Squirrel Tests Positive for Plague

Ground squirrel deaths near Gowen Field prompt testing for plague bacteria

A ground squirrel (whistle pig) found south of Boise has tested positive for plague. Idaho public health officials and Idaho Fish and Game are asking people to take precautions as outdoor summer activities shift into high gear over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents that can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly. Plague is generally transmitted to humans and animals through the bites of infected fleas. It also can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits and pets. Common rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels, rats and mice. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

“We have investigated reported mortalities of ground squirrels in the area southeast of Boise (see map below) during May,” State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Mark Drew said. “Dogs and cats can be infected with plague through hunting rodents, playing with or consuming their carcasses, or by exposure to their fleas.”

Plague activity can increase in the spring and summer months when rodents are more active. People can be exposed to plague when pets have contact with rodents or fleas outdoors, or bring infected rodents or fleas back into the home. People also can become infected by caring for a sick pet without proper precautions.

People can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with plague by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents, their fleas and rodent carcasses. They should not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents. Health officials recommend:

  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in the desert south of Boise.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert south of Boise
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced. Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report it to their local public health district.

In Idaho, USDA Wildlife Services tested various species of carnivores between 2005 and 2010 for the presence of antibodies to plague and just 18 animals tested positive, primarily badgers and coyotes. If people find dead ground squirrels they should not touch them, but report the location through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website.

Since 1940, only five human cases of plague have been reported in Idaho. The last two cases reported in Idaho occurred in 1991 and 1992, with both patients fully recovering.

For more information:

This poster will be posted at the main access points to the affected area.

Map of suspected area where plague may be present in wildlife. Please take precautions when visiting this area.

affected area map

 

Editors: For public health questions, please contact Christine Myron or Tom Shanahan. For questions about the affected area or animal infections, please contact Mike Keckler. State and district health offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, and will be closed for Memorial Day weekend.

 

Central District Health Department
Christine Myron
Public Information Officer
327-8639

 

Department of Health and Welfare
Tom Shanahan
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0668

healthandwelfare.idaho.gov

 

Idaho Fish and Game
Mike Keckler
Bureau Chief for Communications
(208) 287-2870

Quick tick removal tips

Ticks are out! As Idahoans flock outside for fishing, camping, or just enjoying nature for the long weekend, its good to know how to deal with them.

Our friends at Idaho Health and Welfare and the Center of Disease Control encourage safe tick removal by following these tick removal instructions.

There's also an oldy but goody article on how to prevent ticks in the first place: 10 tick facts in Idaho in the Idaho Statesman from 2014.

New fishing access agreement on Little Salmon River - Lower Section

The Little Salmon River along US Highway 95 near Riggins is a popular fishery for Idaho anglers looking to catch Chinook salmon and steelhead. Much of the property along the Little Salmon is privately owned, and until now, a stretch that is productive for salmon and steelhead has been inaccessible to the public. Access for this popular fishery has been made possible thanks to an agreement with the Little Salmon River Ranch and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The new Little Salmon River Access area is a cooperative effort with the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

Thank you in advance to our responsible anglers who follow these rules to keep access on this property:

  • Remain in allowed areas (see maps below)
  • No wading across the river
  • No use from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am
  • No camping
  • No campfires
  • Pack-in/pack-out your garbage
  • No shooting
  • Dogs must remain under control
  • No launching of watercraft
  • No commercial use
  • Gates will be locked Oct 1 through December 31, however foot access is allowed year round

 

 

Little Salmon River Access Map And Rules Brochure
PDF Poster of these rules and this map [1,076 KB]

 

Detailed map for new access agreement at Mile Marker 193 on US 95.


PDF Poster of new access area [2,460 KB]

 

 

You may also be interested in an angler etiquette video Idaho Fish and Game recently put together. Learn more about how to interact with other anglers and keep it possible for Idaho Fish and Game to provide additional access by watching this video.

Little Salmon River Chinook Salmon - They are Here!!!

It's mid-May and Chinook Salmon are being caught in the Little Salmon River. During the last three days, creel clerks have observed 12 adult Chinook Salmon being caught on the Little Salmon River. Rapid River Hatchery has caught 30 fish in the trap, this week.

Get ready for a great fishing weekend with Little Salmon River flows around 1,400 cfs and clear water.

Montana black bears harassed

Here's a video snippet shared by our friends in Montana. A female black bear and her three cubs were trapped on a bridge surrounded by overly enthusiastic tourists. We think this is a fortuitous example of what "not" to do around wildlife.

Please give wildlife plenty of distance!

FWP videographer Winston Greely recently captured this footage of a black bear sow and her cubs near Gardiner. It serves...

Posted by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks on Friday, May 8, 2015

Part of Idaho bighorn sheep collection returns home

Part of a bighorn sheep skull and horn collection will be making it's way back to Idaho. Thanks to the efforts of several individuals and groups. Fish and Game is interested in research value of these to determine historical range.

Read more about the effort online at the Billings Gazette.

Speaking of bighorns, have you seen these bighorn sheep opportunities in Idaho? The 2015 controlled hunt application period ends on April 30!

Pocatello Wellness Pond - A New Fishing Hole/Recreational Area Opening September 2015

Pocatello will receive a new urban fishing water this coming fall with the opening of the Portneuf Wellness Complex. The 7-acre pond will be stocked with fish and ready for anglers when the park opens to the public.

Last week, our staff were busy placing docks and working on other access improvements.

To see more of this exciting project, go to Facebook and search "Portneuf Wellness Complex. This will be a jewel for all Southeastern Idaho.

Lost Camera Finds its Owner

A fish and game researcher was doing personal research by flyrod when he lost his digital camera. Two years later, it found it's way back to him through social media. Read or listen at NPR

Trash or Treasure?

Most people consider them trash fish, but one Idaho fly shop owner says carp are worth stalking. Why he says fly anglers should stop fixating on trout in the Idaho Statesman