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Technical Thematic Report No. 7. - Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada

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Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada

Cover page of the publication: Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada.

F. A. LeightonFootnote1

Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
Technical Thematic Report No. 7
Published by the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada.

Issued also in French under title:
Pathogènes et maladies de la faune au Canada.
Electronic monograph in PDF format.
ISBN 978-1-100-18649-8
Cat. no.: En14-43/7-2011E-PDF

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This report should be cited as:

Leighton, F.A. 2011. Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 7. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. iv + 53 p.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2011
Aussi disponible en français


Footnote 1

Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre

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The Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers developed a Biodiversity Outcomes FrameworkFootnote1 in 2006 to focus conservation and restoration actions under the Canadian Biodiversity StrategyFootnote2. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010Footnote3 was a first report under this framework. It assesses progress towards the framework’s goal of “Healthy and Diverse Ecosystems” and the two desired conservation outcomes: i) productive, resilient, diverse ecosystems with the capacity to recover and adapt; and ii) damaged ecosystems restored.

The 22 recurring key findings that are presented in Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010emerged from synthesis and analysis of technical reports prepared as part of this project. Over 500 experts participated in the writing and review of these foundation documents. This report, Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada, is one of several reports prepared on the status and trends of national cross-cutting themes. It has been prepared and reviewed by experts in the field of study and reflects the views of its authors.

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Contributing Authors

I.K. Barker, Doug Campbell, Pierre-Yves Daoust, Zoe Lucas, John Lumsden, Danna Schock, Helen Schwantje, Kim Taylor and Gary Wobeser.

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The information in this chapter draws heavily on the program, data and staff of the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC), a wildlife health sciences centre that is a partnership among Canada’s five colleges of veterinary medicine, federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada, and several non-government organizations. The CCWHC is a research institute that coordinates wildlife disease surveillance in Canada, provides information to government agencies and the public, offers a variety educational programs and is a Collaborating Centre of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). I also thank the reviewers of this report.

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Ecological Classification System – Ecozones+

A slightly modified version of the Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada, described in the National Ecological Framework for CanadaFootnote4, provided the ecosystem-based units for all reports related to this project. Modifications from the original framework include: adjustments to terrestrial boundaries to reflect improvements from ground-truthing exercises; the combination of three Arctic ecozones into one; the use of two ecoprovinces – Western Interior Basin and Newfoundland Boreal; the addition of nine marine ecosystem-based units; and, the addition of the Great Lakes as a unit. This modified classification system is referred to as “ecozones+” throughout these reports to avoid confusion with the more familiar “ecozones” of the original framework.Footnote5

Ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report for Canada.

Long Description for Ecozones+ map of Canada

This map of Canada shows the ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report, named “ecozones+”. This map shows the distribution of 15 terrestrial ecozones+, two large lake ecozones+, and nine marine ecozones+.

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Overview of Pathogens and Diseases of Wild Vertebrates

Pathogens are living or non-living things capable of causing disease -- that is, some degree of physiological dysfunction -- in living organisms. Pathogens are normal components of ecosystems and are part of the biological and environmental complexity that lends stability and resilience to ecological function. Living pathogens thus are important components of each ecosystem’s biodiversity, and include a wide spectrum of organisms, from worms and arthropods, to fungi, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. Non-living pathogens include simple chemical elements like lead and mercury, a wide range of industrial and other chemicals produced by humans, complex biological toxins produced by various organisms, and misfolded proteins of normal primary structure as with the prions responsible for the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) and chronic wasting disease.

Ecologists and epidemiologists recognize that the occurrence, intensity, and importance of disease in an individual or a population is governed by an interplay of influences that include the physiology and population dynamics of the species in question, many details about the pathogens to which that species may be exposed, and a wide range of environmental parameters that determine the conditions under which the host species and pathogens will interact. The patterns of disease occurrence in an ecosystem thus are governed by this triad of host species-pathogen-environment (Hudson et al., 2002; Patz and Confalonieiri, 2005). The 20th century has been characterized by profound and escalating environmental changes (Cohen, 1995; McNeill, 2000). It is therefore not surprising that patterns of disease in people, domestic animals, and wild animals also have changed profoundly, particularly in the past six decades. This phenomenon of abruptly changing patterns of disease occurrence has been termed “disease emergence,” and has been a central focus of epidemiology and disease ecology in the past two decades (Lederberg v, 1992; Jones et al., 2008).

Canada initiated a program of national surveillance for diseases in wild vertebrate animals in 1992 with the establishment the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC) (Leighton et al., 1997). This Technical Report reviews the status of a selection of diseases in Canadian wildlife based on that surveillance program and additional information. Many of the selected diseases fit the general definition of “emerging diseases,” in that they are occurring in new locations, with increased intensity, or are entirely new to Canada. Wildlife disease surveillance is recent in Canada and is carried out at a coarse scale. Thus, trends can be discerned in the patterns of occurrence of some diseases but not in others. Such trends are noted in this report when they can be discerned. The coarse scale of disease surveillance also means that it is not possible to consider each ecozone+ separately with respect to disease occurrence. Most of the pathogens covered in this report are distributed across many ecozones+ and are therefore organized by pathogen rather than geography. An accounting of the ecozones+ included in the range of each pathogen is included within each pathogen section of the report. Pathogens and diseases that are important or occur in only one or a few ecozones+ are described in subsequent sections of the report, organized by ecozone+.

Some pathogens of Canadian wild vertebrates are of national and international concern because they can cause disease in people (zoonotic diseases) or in domestic animals, or threaten wild populations around the world. There is a legal obligation to report such disease occurrences to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) under the regulations of the Health of Animals Act. Where such a reporting requirement exists, it is indicated in each section heading by the categories Reportable, Immediately Notifiable, or Annually Notifiable. Any suspicion of a Reportable disease must be reported immediately to a CFIA District Veterinarian. Reporting of Immediately Notifiable and Annually Notifiable disease occurrences applies only to disease diagnostic laboratories; reports must be made by these laboratories to the CFIA either immediately or once each year, in February (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2009). Occurrence of viral hemorrhagic septicemia of fish must be reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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Footnote 1

Environment Canada. 2006. Biodiversity outcomes framework for Canada. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.p. Environnement Canada. 2006.

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Footnote 2

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Biodiversity Working Group. 1995. Canadian biodiversity strategy: Canada's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Environment Canada, Biodiversity Convention Office. Ottawa, ON.80 p.

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Footnote 3

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments of Canada. 2010. Canadian biodiversity: ecosystem status and trends 2010. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. vi + 142 p.

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Footnote 4

Ecological Stratification Working Group. 1995. A national ecological framework for Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research and Environment Canada, State of the Environment Directorate, Ecozone Analysis Branch. Ottawa/Hull, ON. 125 p. Report and national map at 1:7 500 000 scale.

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Footnote 5

Rankin, R., Austin, M. and Rice, J. 2011. Ecological classification system for the ecosystem status and trends report. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 1. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.

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