Emergence of Black Bear Mange in New York

Mange is a skin disease of mammals caused by an infection with microscopic mites- most commonly one species of mite called Sarcoptes scabeii. Red foxes throughout New York are often seen with the disease, and they can have severe hair loss and skin damage that leads to death from secondary infections and hypothermia. More recently, wildlife biologists in Pennsylvania and New York have documented an increasing number of black bears affected by mange.

Sarcoptes-scabiei. Credit - Alan R Walker (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Through our wildlife surveillance program with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, we are tracking reports of affected bears to determine the distribution and progression of the disease across the state. Working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia, we are collecting skin samples and analyzing genetic markers from affected black bears and red foxes to determine if the bear mange mite is unique from the red fox mite. This information will be used to guide management and treatment recommendations for wildlife in New York.