Health Survey of Boreal Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada

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Kristen Bondo
Bryan Macbeth
Helen Schwantje
Karin Orsel
Diane Culling
Brad Culling
Morten Tryland
Ingebjørg Nymo
Susan Kutz
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Boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are listed as threatened across
Canada, and a basic understanding of their health status is lacking. From December 2012 to April 2013, we investigated multiple health indices for adult female boreal caribou (n¼163) captured from seven herds in NE British Columbia, Canada. Health indices included physical characteristics, physiologic and trace mineral status, exposure to or infection with selected pathogens, and measures of chronic stress and inflammation, including serum amyloid A, haptoglobin, and hair cortisol concentration. Key findings were exposure to the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae in 14% of individuals, mild to severe hair loss associated with winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) infestations in 76% of caribou from December to early February and 81% from late February to early April, and evidence of trace mineral deficiencies with 99% and 34% of individuals deficient in copper and selenium, respectively. Seroprevalence for exposure to selected pathogens was: alphaherpesvirus (63%), pestivirus (1%) Besnoitia spp. (60%), and Neospora caninum (2%). All animals were seronegative to Brucella spp. and Toxoplasma gondii. Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis was not detected in any fecal samples. Parasite eggs or larvae, including Parelaphostrongylus andersoni (36%), Skrjabinema spp. (1%), Strongyle-type eggs (11%), Moniezia-type eggs (8%), and nematodirines (3%), were detected on fecal examination, but at low intensity. Blood biochemistry values and hair cortisol concentrations were within ranges previously reported in Rangifer tarandus sspp. Some significant differences among herds were noted, including antler morphology, exposure to Besnoitia spp., and concentrations of serum amyloid A, copper, cobalt, manganese, and iron.