Learn about diseases that affect wildlife in Missouri and which ones can be harmful to humans and domestic animals.
What is Wildlife Health?
Wildlife health often refers to the monitoring of diseases and their impacts within wildlife populations. But “wildlife health” is much more than the presence or absence of disease. Wildlife health is the ability of wildlife to thrive in a changing environment.
The health of wildlife populations is influenced by many interacting factors. These include genetics, environmental stressors, habitat quality, and disease.
Why Care about Wildlife Health?
The health of wildlife, domestic animals, humans, and our ecosystems are intricately connected.
- Healthy environments with strong, thriving wildlife populations support the health and well-being of humans.
- Disease can reduce and severely weaken wildlife populations.
- Many wildlife diseases can spread to domestic animals and people.
By learning about and managing the risks that come from wildlife diseases and health concerns, we can help reduce the impacts to wildlife and help protect domestic animals and humans.
Wild animals don't make good pets, and it is illegal to possess many wild animals without a valid state or federal permit. If you encounter young wildlife, leave them where you find them.
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly known as bird flu, was confirmed in wild birds in Missouri as of March 2022. Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in bird populations, especially waterfowl, shorebirds, and domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2)
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease for rabbits. It is a foreign animal disease and is of high concern in the United States. RHDV2 has not yet been found in Missouri. Any suspected cases should be reported immediately to the Missouri State Veterinarian at (573) 751-3377, or the USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC) at (573) 658-9850.
SARS-CoV-2 and Wildlife
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it can spread from people to susceptible animal species in some situations, especially after close contact with a person with COVID-19. For this reason, the virus may threaten the health and welfare of wildlife and could negatively impact conservation efforts.
To learn more about reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 spreading between people and wildlife, visit the CDC website.
SARS-CoV-2 and White-tailed Deer
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently completed a study that found certain white-tailed deer populations in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Learn more about this APHIS study.