Demographic characteristics and infectious diseases of a population of American black bears in Humboldt County, California.
American black bears (Ursus americanus) are common, widely distributed, and broad-ranging omnivorous mammals in northern California forests. Bears may be susceptible to pathogens infecting both domestic animals and humans. Monitoring bear populations, particularly in changing ecosystems, is important to understanding ecological features that could affect bear population health and influence the likelihood that bears may cause adverse impacts on humans. In all, 321 bears were captured between May, 2001, and October, 2003, and blood samples were collected and tested for multiple zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. We found a PCR prevalence of 10% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and a seroprevalence of 28% for Toxoplasma gondii, 26% for Borrelia burgdorferi, 26% for A. phagocytophilum, 8% for Trichinella spiralis, 8% for Francisella tularensis and 1% for Yersinia pestis. In addition, we tested bears for pathogens of domestic dogs and found a seroprevalence of 15% for canine distemper virus and 0.6% for canine parvovirus. Our findings show that black bears can become infected with pathogens that are an important public health concern, as well as pathogens that can affect both domestic animals and other wildlife species.