Using Wolves as First Responders Against a Deadly Brain Disease

first_imgThe disease has infected many deer herds in Wyoming, and it spread to Montana in 2017. Both states are adjacent to Yellowstone, so experts are concerned that the deadly disease could soon makes its way into the park’s vast herds of elk and deer. The absence of wolves throughout much of the West may also have allowed the disease to take off. “Taking the sick and weak removes chronic wasting disease from the population, because any animal showing any signs of it will get killed and eaten by the wolves,” Dr. Dobson said. “The rest of the carcass gets cleaned up by the coyotes, the bald eagles, ravens and bears.”“Without predators and scavengers on the landscape, animal components last much longer, and that can definitely have an impact on the spread of disease,” Ms. Brandell said.Restoring the population of predators in national parks and wild lands would go a long way toward healthier ecosystems with less disease, Dr. Dobson said. Chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease, is so unusual that some experts call it a “disease from outer space.” First discovered among wild deer in 1981, it leads to deterioration of brain tissue in cervids, mostly deer but also elk, moose and caribou, with symptoms such as listlessness, drooling, staggering, emaciation and death.- Advertisement – It is caused by an abnormal version of a cell protein called a prion, which functions very differently than bacteria or viruses. The disease has spread across wild cervid populations and is now found in 26 states and several Canadian provinces, as well as South Korea and Scandinavia.The disease is part of a group called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, the most famous of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. Mad cow in humans causes a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and there was an outbreak among people in the 1990s in Britain from eating tainted meat.Cooking does not kill the prions, and experts fear that chronic wasting disease could spread to humans who hunt and consume deer or other animals that are infected with it. The origin of the disease is unknown. Andrew P. Dobson, a professor of ecology and epidemiology at Princeton who has studied predator cleansing, believes the illness is largely the result of ecosystems with too few predators and scavengers.He speculates that the disease may have come from deer living in proximity to sheep in Colorado or Wyoming, where it was first identified. Sheep have carried scrapie — effectively mad cow disease for sheep — for centuries. Dr. Dobson has theorized that after a contaminated animal died, it may have lain on the ground for a while in the absence of predators and scavengers, which would usually clean up carcasses.Elk and deer must have calcium, he said, and they may have eaten the bones of a contaminated animal and spread the disease. – Advertisement – Unless, perhaps, the park’s 10 packs of wolves, which altogether contain about 100 individuals, preyed on and consumed diseased animals that were easier to pick off because of their illness (The disease does not appear to infect wolves).“Wolves have really been touted as the best type of animal to remove infected deer, because they are cursorial — they chase their prey and they look for the weak ones,” said Ms. Brandell. By this logic, diseased deer and other animals would the be most likely to be eliminated by wolves.Preliminary results in Yellowstone have shown that wolves can delay outbreaks of chronic wasting disease in their prey species and can decrease outbreak size, Ms. Brandell said. There is little published research on “predator cleansing,” and this study aims to add support for the use of predators to manage disease.A prime concern about the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Yellowstone region is the fact that Wyoming maintains 22 state-sponsored feeding grounds that concentrate large numbers of elk unnaturally in the Yellowstone region. And just south of Grand Teton National Park lies the National Elk Refuge, where thousands of animals, displaced by cattle ranches, are fed each winter to satisfy elk hunters and tourists. Many wildlife biologists say concentrating the animals in such small areas is a recipe for the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease.When cases of the disease among deer ranged from 5 to 50 percent in Wisconsin and Colorado, those states were considered hot spots. But if the disease gets into game farms like the ones in Wyoming, “prevalence rates skyrocket to 90 or 100 percent,” said Mark Zabel, associate director of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University.Prions are especially deadly. Unlike bacteria and viruses, prions can persist in soil for 10 years or more and live on vegetation. Even if a herd dies out or is culled, new animals moving in can become infected. Ken McDonald, Chief of the Wildlife Division of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks, expressed doubts that wolves would prevent chronic wasting disease.“Wolves help remove sick animals, but animals don’t get visibly ill for about 2 years,” he said. “So they are carriers and spreaders but don’t get the classic symptoms.”Mr. McDonald said that maintaining a large enough wolf population outside of Yellowstone to control chronic wasting disease would require so many wolves that it would be socially unacceptable, especially to ranchers and hunters.The state’s approach to controlling the disease, he said, is to increase the number of deer that can be killed in places where the disease is growing.Ms. Brandell, however, said that wolves may detect the disease long before it becomes apparent to people, through smell or a slight change in the movement of prey, which could be beneficial.“Wolves wouldn’t be a magic cure everywhere,” she said. “But in places where it was just starting and you have an active predator guild, they could keep it at bay and it might never get a foothold.” Are the wolves of Yellowstone National Park the first line of defense against a terrible disease that preys on herds of wildlife?That’s the question for a research project underway in the park, and preliminary results suggest that the answer is yes. Researchers are studying what is known as the predator cleansing effect, which occurs when a predator sustains the health of a prey population by killing the sickest animals. If the idea holds, it could mean that wolves have a role to play in limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is infecting deer and similar animals across the country and around the world. Experts fear that it could one day jump to humans.- Advertisement – “There is no management tool that is effective” for controlling the disease, said Ellen Brandell, a doctoral student in wildlife ecology at Penn State University who is leading the project in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. “There is no vaccine. Can predators potentially be the solution?”Many biologists and conservationists say that more research would strengthen the case that reintroducing more wolves in certain parts of the United States could help manage wildlife diseases, although the idea is sure to face pushback from hunters, ranchers and others concerned about competition from wolves. – Advertisement –last_img read more

It’s boom time for Brisbane’s so-called “forgotten peninsula”

first_imgJulie-Anne and Ashley Peel and their children are selling their home in Thorneside and moving 700m down the road because they love the suburb so much. Picture: Nigel Hallett.Manly is undoubtedly the jewel in the bayside’s crown, boasting the largest marina in the southern hemisphere, with the house price record for the suburb broken twice in the past two months.A waterfront, five-bedroom home at 497 Royal Esplanade, Manly, recently went under contract for a massive $3.89 million, blitzing the previous record of $2.7 million set just a month earlier.Agent Marc Sorrentino of Place, who sold both houses, told The Courier-Mail the area had seen a surge that was unlikely to stop any time soon, and he was seeing more interstate parties wanting to buy in to the market. The outlook from Thorneside as the sun sets across the bay.Mr Marsden said the suburbs offered good access to Brisbane and larger blocks of land.“There are boat ramps in Thorneside — people don’t even know that,” he said. Mr Marsden said he had also noticed a trend among homeowners on acreage properties in Redland Bay, Gumdale and Chandler looking to the bayside to downsize.Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive Antonia Mercorella said buyers priced out of the southern markets were beginning to recognise the lifestyle appeal of Brisbane’s bayside suburbs, particularly the lesser known suburb of Thorneside.More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus23 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market23 hours ago“Thorneside offers waterfront living and is a suburb that caters to young families very well with great parks for families to enjoy, as well as a thriving social scene with a craft brew house, wine bar and numerous eating outlets,” she said.“It has avoided attention from developers thus far, but that may change as its popularity becomes more well-known. “Once people buy here they are reluctant to leave, usually staying on average for 11.1 years.” GET THE LATEST REAL ESTATE NEWS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX HERE Ms Mercorella said nearby Redland Bay would also soon be home to a major new development, called Shoreline, with Redland Council recently approving the first 205 residential lots. Julie-Anne and Ashley Peel have lived in Thorneside for the past decade and raised their three children there.The couple are selling their five-bedroom home at 11 Baywalk Place for overs offer $1 million and are moving 700 metres down the road to a bigger house. Julie-Anne and Ashley Peel and their children are selling their home in Thorneside and moving 700m down the road because they love the suburb so much. Picture: Nigel Hallett.IT’S no Noosa and it’s definitely not Mermaid Beach, but that’s the way home buyers on Brisbane’s bayside like it.The once “forgotten peninsula” is suddenly attracting interest from far and wide for its big properties with cheap price tags close to the water.And it’s not just the bayside suburb of Manly that’s attracting attention.The unassuming bayside suburb of Thorneside tops the list of the best performing suburbs in Queensland, as named by property analytics company CoreLogic, with homeowners there pocketing close to $1500 a week on average in the past year just sitting on the couch.And in the past five years, houses in the suburb have grown in value by nearly 40 per cent — proving it pays to be beside the seaside.But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to get a foothold in the rising market. PLENTY TO BID ON AT BRISBANE AUCTIONS BRISBANE MAKES BEST CITIES LIST RECORD APARTMENT RESALE IN ABIAN Only 17km east of Brisbane’s CBD, Thorneside is hard to beat for affordability, with a median house price of $505,000.Houses in neighbouring Birkdale have a median price of $532,500, while the average house price in Wynnum is $648,500.Ray White East Brisbane agent Justin Marsden described the pocket of Thorneside and neighbouring Birkdale as “a forgotten peninsula”.“People have looked at Wellington Point on one side and Wynnum/Manly on the other and that pocket of Thorneside and Birkdale have been overlooked,” Mr Marsden said. “It’s elevated, has beautiful views and there’s only a limited amount of homes there, so I think it’s starting to find its identity.”center_img This home at 11 Baywalk Plc, Thorneside, is for sale. Picture.“We just love the location,” Mrs Peel said.“It was more that we’d outgrown the home and we just didn’t want to leave where we were.”Mrs Peel said she was not surprised that the suburb had seen such strong capital growth.“It’s so quiet, it’s close to everything — it’s like a hidden gem,” she said.“You don’t get to be this close to the water, have the beautiful bay breezes and enjoy this lifestyle and not start be noticed.”last_img read more