USGS Uses Thermal Imaging to Study Wolf Mange

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We've written about sarcoptic mange before when we posted about chupacabras probably just being mangy coyotes. Apparently sarcoptic mange isn't just a problem for coyotes, it affects wolves as well. The USGS has set up what appear to be high-tech thermal imaging game cams. By using the thermal imaging they can detect the amount of heat lost due to the loss of fur on the wolves' coat. The full USGS article can be viewed here.

The resulting images, admits Cross, are unusual and captivating. But they also reveal red-colored “hot spots” that give off more heat, meaning the afflicted wolf has to get the energy lost through heat by eating more calories – that is, elk and other food. ... Sarcoptic mange was introduced into the Northern Rockies in 1909 by state wildlife veterinarians in an attempt to help eradicate local wolf and coyote populations. Scientists believe the troublesome mite that causes the disease persisted among coyotes and foxes after wolves were exterminated. Since their reintroduction into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1995-96, wolves appeared to be free of mange until 2002.

Visit this link to view the test thermal images produced by the USGS.


jim boyd's picture

Yes, this is very

Yes, this is very interesting.

First of all - the fact that the mange was intentionally introduced - that seems a troublesome concept... I am no vetenarian (SP?), but I worry that the disease or condition could have been spread to bears, mountain lions... maybe even to hooved animals, but I guess that would be known by now since over a decade has passed. I guess the only contact between wolves and coyotes and elk, deer, etc is when they are being attacked... so the only way it could be spread to a live animal is if it were attacked and escaped - and you have to assume that happens at times.

You wonder now, why - after being reintroduced in back in the mid nineties - it took six to eight years for it to show back up in wolves - unless it just took a while for it to get noticed.

One great thing is that they are taking the effort to try to determine the extent of the problem - I guess the next logical step is to try to figure out how to combat it - I can not even imagine what those steps might be.

We see dogs in the south with mange - but in thirty years of deer hunting, I have never seen a coyote with it, and we shoot them on sight. It may be, however, that I simply did not look closely enough.

Again, a very interesting piece... good work bringing us stuff like this BGH!

hawkeye270's picture

This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting study. It just goes to show that the United States Geological Study plays a bigger role in wildlife studies than most people give them credit for. They have a whole division working on wildlife studies and a lot of their research is well regarded and very useful. I worked with them somewhat this summer during my internship. Most of my work with them dealt with boreal toad monitoring and reintroduction.

The use of remote thermal camera use on wildlife populations is a novel one and it is an interesting idea. The article states that they will be setting these cameras up at sites that certain wolves frequent. That might be a sticky point for the study. Wolves are very mobile and although they might be able to get pictures of more sedentary packs and individuals, their study will be complicated if they can not sample a diverse group of individuals. They are going to have to get a lot of those cameras up and use areas that funnel wolf movements. I am interested to see the results of this study. And the fact that wildlife managers in the early 1900's introduced the diseases causing agent is scary. Just shows that we have come a long ways in wildlife management since then.