June 6, 2012
Jeff Villepique, DFG Wildlife Biologist, 760-937-5966
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, 916-322-8908
Residents of San Bernardino Mountains Asked to Help Collect Information
Last spring, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) received reports from residents of sick and dying western gray squirrels in Big Bear Valley.
Researchers from DFG, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in
San Bernardino, and University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine concluded the squirrels were dying from complications of mange, a contagious skin disease caused by parasitic mites that burrow into the skin of affected animals, causing intense itching and infection.
Surveys conducted in spring of 2012 yielded only a handful of western gray squirrels in areas of the Big BearValley where squirrels were once plentiful.
Local residents are now being asked to help collect data so researchers can better understand past abundance, where sick squirrels have been observed, and where western gray squirrels are now. The website address to report information is at: https://sites.google.com/a/ucdavis.edu/san-bernardino-squirrels
Information provided by the public will help construct a picture of what happened to the squirrel population in the San Bernardino Mountains and help track the pace of their re-growth. In addition, this information will also help researchers determine whether conservation measures can be taken to prevent further loses of squirrels.
The species of mange mites affecting gray squirrels, Notoedres centrifera, is specific to rodents and cannot infect humans or pet cats and dogs. Veterinary researchers caution residents that local wildlife, including coyotes, raccoons and bobcats often carry other species of mange that can infect their pets and, rarely, people. If your pet scratches excessively or develops scabs, you should seek veterinary care as symptoms could be from one of the other forms of mange, which are readily treatable.