Beavers likely dying from water-borne bacterium

Colorado wildlife officials are blaming water-borne tularemia for the deaths of several beavers in San Miguel and Gilpin counties.

“Seeing two small outbreaks in different parts of the state at the same time is probably just a coincidence,” said Dr. Lisa Wolfe, wildlife veterinarian with Colorado Division of Wildlife. “Water-borne tularemia outbreaks tend to be reported in spring, so these seem to be pretty typical cases.”

Wolfe said water-borne tularemia occurs naturally in Colorado and elsewhere and can infect animals that spend time in water, such as beavers and muskrats.  Both of the outbreaks appear to be localized and pose little threat to humans, wildlife officials said.

Four beavers were found dead in ponds near Telluride, and a fifth dead beaver was found in Specie Creek, about 15 miles northwest of Telluride. Three beaver carcasses were discovered in Snowline Lake, south of Rollinsville, in Gilpin County.

Some of the carcasses were examined by labs in Grand Junction and Fort Collins and subsequently by veterinary pathologists with the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins.

These labs provided strong support for tularemia as the cause of death in the beavers examined. Additional testing to confirm the diagnosis is ongoing.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the tularemia-causing bacterium, Francisella tularensis, poses a low threat to human health.

Other beavers will likely move into the areas soon, according to the DOW.


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