Wildlife diseases

About wildlife diseases

Although most wild animals in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are healthy, diseases and parasites can occur in any wildlife population. Some of these diseases can infect people or domestic animals. It is important to regularly assess and monitor disease in wildlife populations so we can take steps to reduce their impact on healthy animals.

Anthrax outbreak in the Northwest Territories, 2012
Anthrax outbreak in the Northwest Territories, 2012

Precautions

Hunters should look for signs of sickness in an animal before they shoot, such as:

  • poor condition (weak, sluggish, thin, or lame)
  • swellings or lumps, hair loss, blood, or discharges from the nose or mouth
  • abnormal behaviour (loss of fear of people, aggressiveness)

If you shoot a sick animal

  • Do not cut into diseased parts.
  • Wash your hands, knives and clothes in hot soapy water after you've finished cutting up and skinning the animal and disinfect with a weak bleach solution.
  • If meat from an infected animal can be eaten, make sure you take the proper precautions to handle and prepare the meat.
  • Do not feed parts of infected animals to dogs.
  • It is important to report all wildlife diseases.

When collecting sample, make sure you

  • Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself.
  • Place each sample in a separate plastic bag.
  • Unless otherwise noted, samples should be submitted frozen or kept cool.
  • Record the following information:
    • Date and location collected
    • Type of animal
    • Sex and estimated age of the animal
    • Description of the sample
    • Any other conditions that may be important (e.g. unusual weather, signs of a struggle)

A sample kit is available from your local or regional Environment and Natural Resources office. It contains a disease form you can use to record your information.

Resources

Field Guide to Wildlife Diseases

Although most wild animals in the NWT are healthy, diseases and parasites can occur in any wildlife population. Some of these diseases can infect people or domestic animals. It is important to regularly monitor and assess diseases in wildlife populations so we can take steps to reduce their impact on healthy animals and people. The information in this field guide should help hunters to:

  • recognize sickness in an animal before they shoot
  • identify a disease or parasite in an animal they have killed
  • know how to protect themselves from infection
  • help wildlife agencies monitor wildlife disease and parasites

The diseases in this field guide are grouped according to where they are most often seen in the body of the animal: skin, head, liver, lungs, muscle, and general.

Quarterly report of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) is a collection of highly qualified people within a cross-Canada network of partners and collaborators dedicated to wildlife health. It includes internationally renowned wildlife disease diagnosticians and researchers, experts in population health, skilled educators and experienced policy advisors.

The CWHC is dedicated to generating knowledge needed to assess and manage wildlife health and working with others to make sure knowledge is put to use in a timely fashion. It issues a quarterly report on wildlife disease and health.

More information

For more information on wildlife diseases, contact your local Renewable Resource Officer, Regional Biologist or the GNWT Wildlife Disease Specialist.