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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sarcoptic Mange in Urban Kit Foxes: Potential for Cross-Species Transmission


A robust population of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes occurs in the city of Bakersfield, CA. In March 2013, sarcoptic mange was detected in this population and the disease quickly spread. In January 2019, mange also appeared in a smaller kit fox population in the neighboring town of Taft, CA. To date there have been more than 430 confirmed cases in and 100 confirmed deaths of kit foxes. An additional 118 unrecovered individuals are presumed deceased because there is no indication that kit foxes survive without medical intervention. These numbers are also presumed underestimations of the actual number of kit foxes that have contracted and died from mange. In addition to capturing and treating kit foxes, the Endangered Species Recovery Program has conducted a yearly citywide camera survey in Bakersfield since 2015 and Taft since 2019 to assess the occurrence of mange among kit foxes and the spatial pattern of spread. Based on the Bakersfield survey, the urban kit fox population has declined by 67% since 2015. This annual camera survey also provides information on co-occurring species that could contract or transmit mange. Of the total number of cameras that have detected kit foxes with mange, 88% of those also detected at least one secondary species including raccoons, opossums, striped skunks, California ground squirrels, and domestic cats and dogs. The annual camera surveys have also detected coyotes, red foxes, gray foxes, and opossums with active mange infestations. Transmission routes for all of these species remain uncertain and the potential for transmitting mites to new areas or new individuals of multiple species is possible. Overall, mange presents a risk to multiple species in the urban environment, including domestics, for as long as it continues to circulate.

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