USFWS study supports belief that EASTERN WOLF is a distinct species ~ GEORGIA’s Atlanta Zoo Aviary closed after PARAKEET dies of PSITTACOSIS ~ WEST NILE VIRUS report from CDC-National, & MISSISSIPPI ~ RABIES reports from FLx2, NJ, NY, & WI.

Eastern wolf. Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

National 11/26/12 by OurAmazingPlanet Staff – Eastern wolves, which used to live in the northeastern United States, but now remain only in southeastern Canada, qualify as a distinct species from their western cousins, according to a review by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists. The finding may be important for the future of North American wolves and could help scientists understand how the animals evolved, as noted by USA Today.

In the study, published in October in the journal North American Fauna, the scientists reviewed decades of research on North American wolves, much of it complicated and contradictory. Some studies found 8 subspecies of gray wolves; others suggested as many as 27. Previously, scientists considered eastern wolves a subspecies of gray wolf, Canis lupus lycaon (pronounced LY-can). However, the new review of reams of genetic data suggests that the animal should be classified as a separate species of wolf entirely.

Gray wolf. Courtesy National Park Service.

Eastern wolves would join two universally recognized species of wolves in North America: gray wolves (Canis lupus) and red wolves (Canis rufus). Gray wolves once ranged throughout most of modern-day America, but were hunted and poisoned to the brink of extinction, maintaining only a single population in northern Minnesota, the study noted. The animals have since recovered slightly and been reintroduced to Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park  (although hunting has since resumed in Minnesota, Wyoming and elsewhere).

Red wolf. Photo by Dave Pape. Wikimedia Commons.

Red wolves were also wiped out from their native range, but have been reintroduced into North Carolina and are thought to be breeding in the wild, according to news reports. The study found that eastern wolves are most closely related to red wolves, and that both species evolved from a common ancestor shared with coyotes. This helps explain why eastern wolves can still mate with and form hybrid offspring with coyotes, so-called coywolves. Gray wolves, on the other hand, are known to kill any coyotes they come across. Smaller than their western cousins, eastern wolves weigh from 62 to 77 pounds (28 to 35 kilograms), according to the study. They preferentially prey on white-tailed deer, unlike gray wolves, which have a more wide-ranging diet, USA Today reported. – For complete article see


Georgia 11/28/12 by Katie Brace – A parakeet at Zoo Atlanta has died from a bacterial infection which caused staff to temporarily shut down the Boundless Budgies Parakeet Aviary. On their website, Zoo Atlanta said, “A histopathology report from the parakeet indicated the presence of psittacosis, a bacterial infection that can cause respiratory problems in birds and humans.” The exhibit was closed because the infection may be transmitted to humans through direct handling of infected birds or by inhaling bacteria from bird feces or organic debris. “We routinely conduct necropsies so that we can be as proactive as possible about detecting the presence of disease in our collection, and this is the first example of psittacosis in these parakeets that we have seen at Zoo Atlanta,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, director of veterinary services. Psittacosis primarily affects parrots, parakeets, macaws, lovebirds and cockatoos.

Parakeets. Photo by Kent County, Michigan.

The parakeet collection is treated with antibiotics once a year in an effort to reduce the likelihood of birds contracting the disease. “The veterinary team is taking every appropriate action to test and treat the parakeet flock. We continue to proactively monitor any circumstance which would affect our animal collection or our guests,” said Murphy. Vets will decontaminate the aviary before the venue will be reopened to the public. It is unclear how long that will take. Dr. Hayley Murphy, director of Veterinary Services at Zoo Atlanta, told CBS Atlanta the exhibit will probably be closed for 60 days, as the 250 budgies are treated with antibiotics. Murphy said the risk to humans is extremely low. She said none of the zoo keepers assigned to the birds were sick and no other birds had tested positive for the bacteria. “I wouldn’t worry about it. The chances of you getting it in an open air exhibit like this are so low compared to a home or pet store where there are budgies or parrots,” said Murphy. The bacteria causes mild-like cold symptoms in humans, according to Murphy. The CDC only had 66 reported human cases over four years.

West Nile Virus (WNV):

National 11/27/12 Update – Forty-eight states have reported WNV infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 5,245 cases of WNV disease in people, including 236 deaths, have been reported to CDC. Of these, 2,663 (51%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 2,582 (49%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease. The 5,245 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of WNV disease cases reported to CDC through the last week in November since 2003. Eighty percent of the cases have been reported from 13 states (Texas, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, and New York) and a third of all cases have been reported from Texas. – For details and maps see

Mississippi 11/26/12 State health officials confirm two new human cases of WNV reported in Wayne and Perry counties, bringing the state total to 244 cases and five deaths. This is the highest number of WNV cases ever reported in Mississippi. – See,13151,341.html


Florida 11/29/12 Hernando County: A raccoon that bit and scratched a teenager and his dog on Monday near Brookside Street in Spring Hill has tested positive for rabies. Authorities encouraged residents in the area of the attack, just east of Mariner Boulevard and north of Elgin Boulevard, to report any stray animals or wild animals exhibiting aggressive or unusual behavior to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. – See

Florida 11/28/12 Polk County: A bat found at Summerlin Academy in Bartow has tested positive for rabies. One child was potentially exposed to the virus. – See

New Jersey 11/28/12 Bergen County: A skunk found by county animal control officers in Lyndhurst in the vicinity of Riverside County Park has tested positive for rabies. – See

New York 11/28/12 Tioga County: Health officials have issued a Rabies Alert after a fox attacked a Tioga Center man and woman in their driveway while they were exiting their vehicle. Both were bitten, but the fox escaped. Due to its erratic behavior, officials are assuming the animal is rabid and both individuals will be treated for potential exposure to the virus. – See

Wisconsin 11/27/12 Dane County: The Department of Public Health is looking for information regarding a dog that bit a child on 11/21/12. The incident occurred around 6 or 7pm on Darbo Drive, near Worthington Park in the city of Madison. The dog is described as short-haired, medium in size and white with brown spots. Anyone having information regarding this incident is asked to call Police and Fire dispatcher at 255-2345 and ask for the animal services officer. If the animal is not located, the victim may be required to complete a series of painful and costly injections to prevent rabies.


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