Infectious Pathogens and Resistance to Diseases Related to Ursids: Are Microparasites a Factor in the Ursid Threatened Species Management Plans?
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012
Ezequiel Hidalgo, DVM
Conservation and Research Department, Buin Zoo Zoological Park, Buin, Chile


The Carnivora comprise 15 families1 and they are identified as one of the mammal groups most threatened by infectious agents.2-4 However, in the case of Ursids, several authors have suggested that members of this family have a high resistance to infectious diseases5-11 and therefore infectious disease wouldn’t be relevant for their management. In order to document the relationship between pathogens (viruses, protozoa, and bacteria), susceptibility to infection and clinical disease in ursids, a literature review was conducted.

Reports (which included pathology, parasitology, molecular diagnostics, isolation and serum titers) document susceptibility to infection by 43 different pathogens. Additionally, at least 65 clinical reports documented disease caused by 20 pathogens, with viruses being the most common pathogen type associated with clinical disease. Although these reports mostly document individuals being affected rather than entire wild populations, it is very important to take infectious diseases into account for ex situ and translocation management programs. Thus, biosecurity and preventive medicine protocols may be established for selected pathogens as an important issue for captive bear populations and translocation programs. In conclusion, further studies about the relationship of infectious pathogens and Ursidae family may be conducted.

Literature Cited

1.  Wilson, Don E. and Dee Ann Reeder (eds.). 2005. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 3rd ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

2.  Murray, D. L., C. A. Kapke, J. F. Evermann, and T. K. Fuller. 1999. Infectious disease and the conservation of free-ranging large carnivores. Anim. Conserv 2:241–254

3.  Williams, E. S., and E. T. Thorne. 1996. Infectious and parasitic diseases of captive carnivores, with special emphasis on the black-footed ferret. Review Scientific and Technical Office of International Epizootics 15: 91–114.

4.  Woodroffe, R., S. Cleaveland, O. Courtenay, K. Laurenson, and M. Artois. 2004. Infectious diseases in the management and conservation of wild canids. Pages 123–142 in D. M. Macdonald and C. Sillero-Subiri, editors. The Biology and Conservation of Wild Canids. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

5.  Almberg, E.S., P.C. Cross & D.W. Smith. 2010. Persistence of canine distemper virus in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem’s carnivore community. Ecological Applications 20(7): 2058–2074.

6.  Beecham, J.J. 2006. Orphan Bear Cubs: Rehabilitation and Release Guidelines. World Society for the Protection of Animals. Retrieved February 28, 2012 from:

7.  Claro, F. 1998. Veterinary Care in EAZA Ursid Husbandry Guidelines. Kolter, L. & J. Usher-Smith, U. Eds. Zoologischer Garten Köln.

8.  Dollinger, P., R. Baumgartner, O. Pagan and B. Weschler. 1996. Husbandry and pathology of polar bears (Thalarctos maritimus) in Swiss zoos. In: European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians first scientific meeting, Rostock, Germany. 47–54.

9.  Fowler, M. E. 1986. Carnivores (Carnivora): Ursidae. In: Zoo & Wild Animal Medicine. 2nd ed. 811–816. Fowler, M. E. (Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders & Co.

10.  Fujimoto, Y. 1957. Studies on infectious canine hepatitis II: histopathological studies on experimental. Japanese J. Vet. Res. 5(3): 123–140.

11.  Schaul, J.C. 2006. Baylisascaris transfuga in captive and free ranging populations of bears (family: Ursidae). PhD thesis. The Ohio State University.


Speaker Information
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Ezequiel Hidalgo, DVM
Conservation and Research Department
Buin Zoo Zoological Park
Buin, Chile

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