Endangered San Joaquin Kit Foxes Threatened By New Danger

18 March 2017, 8:46 am EDT By Amy Gordon Tech Times
A new disease named Sarcoptic mange has threatened the very existence of the San Joaquin kit foxes. The disease is caused by mite infection and in severe cases may be lethal, which has led to researchers investigating the problem.  ( Alan Schmierer | Flickr )

The survival of San Joaquin kit foxes is already at a high risk as they continuously face dangers to their existence, such as loss of territory and rivalry with several external species like the red fox.

Now the remaining inhabitants are fighting against a new threat, which is a skin infection named sarcoptic mange that is caused by mites.

A new study has been conducted by Morris Animal Foundation, to examine the different aspects of the highly infectious disease. The aim is to provide the necessary information to people who are putting in extreme efforts to save the San Joaquin creature.

San Joaquin Valley of central California is the native area of the San Joaquin kit foxes, but the population of this species has dwindled in recent times. This is largely due to human development in the area.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the present population of these foxes is less than 7,000.

What Is Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic mange is an extremely infectious disease which is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. It is a mite that lives and causes havoc under the skin. A significant population based in the city of Bakersfield has been affected by the sarcoptic mange. The disease was first diagnosed in 2013.

The symptoms of this disease include severe loss of hair and bruises on skin accompanied by severe itchiness and trauma. The extreme cases can also be lethal.

Solutions are urgently needed to prevent this disease from being transferred from the species infected to others, in a bid to save it from extinction. The other kit fox populations, as well as canids need to be saved.

Findings Of The Study

During the research, scientists found the Sarcoptic mange disease in 15 dead kit foxes. They found nine foxes alive that were affected by the disease. Among the nine, the team succeeded in treating three.

The team confirmed that there was no hope that the untreated foxes could be rescued from the deadly infection. Why? As the disease had developed all over their body.

"With this foundational study, we have been able to leverage additional funding to continue our research, including identifying potential strategies to eliminate the disease from portions of this kit fox population and possibly from the entire population," stated Dr. Brian Cyphers, one of the authors of the study.

He also added that this study will help researchers gain additional financial support to conduct further observations. The future studies will possibly include the process of identifying possible ways to remove the disease from the kit foxes.

The study has been published in Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

Photo: Alan Schmierer | Flickr

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