Mange in Black Bears in Pennsylvania
Black bears (Ursus americanus) in Pennsylvania have recently experienced an increased prevalence of mange. Three causative agents of mange have been reported from bears, Sarcoptes scabiei (sarcoptic mange), Ursicoptes americanus (ursicoptic mange), and Demodex ursi (demodicosis). Mange is characterized by hair loss, thickened skin, and crusty lesions which can lead to poor body condition, secondary infections and possibly death. Currently, little is known about the ecology of mange in bears despite a dramatic increase in case numbers and geographic distribution. Our first goal is to determine the etiologic agents of mange in Pennsylvania using a combination of morphologic and molecular characterization. Additionally, we aim to identify appropriate diagnostic assays to identify the causative mites of mange in bears. Finally, any potential management strategy will have to address all sources of mite transmission, including infected bears and the environment. Currently little is known about the persistence of these mites in the environment and what role that may have on this epizootic. To address this dearth of knowledge, are experimentally evaluating the environmental persistence of these mites under varying conditions. Collectively, these data will improve our knowledge of mange and form the basis for understanding why this epizootic is occurring and what management options exist.