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You may find a local wildlife story by keeping your eye on the government's early warning radar screen for wildlife die-offs.
The US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center keeps constant surveillance on outbreaks of wildlife disease — some of which are first noticed when mass die-offs of wildlife occur. The Center posts this information as it comes in, on its Web page.
Federal agencies keep a watchful eye on diseases such as avian influenza for many reasons. One of the most important is that some animal diseases jump the species barrier to infect humans. For example, many flu viruses (including the deadly 1918 strain) begin with birds and mutate to infect humans.
But wildlife diseases have other hazards as well — avian flu could also devastate the US poultry industry. Some wildlife diseases may be symptoms of an ecosystem that is out of whack. Whether you observe wildlife deaths yourself — or find out about them on the USGS site — they may be a story of interest or importance.
- National Wildlife Health Center: contacts for wildlife mortality events. Eastern US, Dr. Anne Ballman, 608-270-2445; Western US, Dr. Krysten Schuler, 608-270-2447.