What you can do to keep yourself and wildlife healthy

  • Help keep Yukon wildlife healthy
  • Chronic wasting disease
  • Winter ticks
  • Rabies
  • Other wildlife diseases
  • Monitoring wildlife health
  1. Help keep Yukon wildlife healthy

    Clean off-road vehicles to prevent the spread of disease

    Dirt and soil can spread disease. Remember that diseases that infect animals could be present in the dirt on your vehicle, trailer or ATV.

    • Clean your vehicle before you come to Yukon.
      • Pay special attention to the tires, wheel wells and undercarriage.
    • Remove all large chunks of dried mud first.
    • Wash truck beds, trailers and anything else used to transport off-road vehicles.
    • If you clean your vehicle after you arrive in Yukon, do it in an area where hoofed animals are not likely to be exposed to the dirt and/or mud.

     

    We are most concerned about vehicles coming from:

    • regions where chronic wasting disease (CWD) and anthrax are common; or
    • farms where CWD has been diagnosed.

     

    CWD is present in these regions, especially along river valleys:

    • parts of Saskatchewan;
    • southeast Alberta; and
    • the central United States.

     

    Anthrax has caused outbreaks in livestock and wildlife in:

    • Northwest Territories;
    • southern Manitoba;
    • Saskatchewan; and
    • some areas of Alberta.

     

    For more information, read this clean your off-road vehicles fact sheet.

    Submit biological samples from harvested animals

    You can help monitor wildlife health when hunting by submitting biological samples along with your harvest report.

    Keep domestic sheep and wild sheep apart

    Yukon has the largest population of wild thinhorn sheep in Canada. Although they prefer higher elevations, sometimes individual sheep wander through valleys where farming occurs. Young rams looking for mates may be attracted to domestic sheep.

    Healthy domestic sheep can carry bacteria and viruses that are still harmful to:

    • wild thinhorn sheep; and
    • wild goats.

     

    Control Order

    The Government of Yukon has introduced a Control Order that comes into effect January 1, 2020. It will require owners of domestic sheep and goats to:

    • properly identify; and
    • confine their animals.

     

    Government officials will test for bacteria linked to respiratory disease in wild sheep in:

    • domestic sheep; and
    • domestic goats.

     

    Read the sheep and goat owners fact sheet, or if you have more questions, email animalhealth@gov.yk.ca.

    Nasal swabs

    The Government of Yukon collects nasal swabs from thinhorn sheep that are:

    • dead;
    • captured; or
    • harvested.

     

    We test these swabs for pathogens that cause pneumonia.

    We also collect nasal swabs from the following animals:

    • wild goats;
    • elk;
    • moose;
    • muskox;
    • deer; and
    • caribou.

     

  2. Chronic wasting disease

    What is chronic wasting disease?

    Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a degenerative, fatal brain disease that affects cervids. Cervids include:

    • white-tailed deer;
    • mule deer;
    • elk;
    • moose; and
    • caribou.

     

    To date, CWD has not been found in Yukon.

    What causes CWD?

    CWD is caused by a tiny infectious protein called a prion. Prions can contaminate soil and may persist for many years.

    CWD can spread by natural migration of wild deer. However, it is best to avoid bringing potentially infectious body tissues and soil or dirt into Yukon from other jurisdictions.

    Is there a cure?

    • There is no treatment, vaccine or cure for CWD.
    • Control efforts have been ineffective when this disease has occurred in the wild.
    • It would be devastating for CWD to spread to animals in Yukon.

    Signs of CWD

    It takes years for CWD-infected animals to develop the signs of disease. They may appear normal even though they are infected. Ultimately infected animals show:

    • weight loss;
    • listlessness;
    • depression;
    • weakness;
    • behavioral changes; and
    • and eventually death.

     

    How to protect yourself

    • CWD has not been identified as a human health risk.
    • Don't eat meat from affected animals.
    • CWD is very similar to mad cow disease and can possibly infect people.

     

    Monitoring CWD

    The Government of Yukon is testing road-killed and harvested animals for CWD to ensure that we can detect this disease early if it occurs. These animals include:

    • deer;
    • elk;
    • moose; and
    • caribou

     

    We collect for testing:

    • a portion of the brain; and
    • various glands from the head.

     

    The head will not be damaged and we can return it the hunter.

    Submit these samples to any Department of Environment office:

    • whole elk heads are compulsory submissions; and
    • whole heads of deer, moose and caribou are requested samples.

     

    Regulations to prevent the spread of CWD

    When hunters transport animal carcasses and internal organs between regions, they can bring diseases to new areas.

    Yukon, BC and Alaska have regulations relating limiting the import and transport of species susceptible to CWD.

    If you hunt outside of Yukon, be aware that:

    • you can't import whole cervid (deer, elk, moose, caribou) carcasses or parts of carcasses into Yukon except:
      • a cleaned skull cap with antlers;
      • cleaned teeth removed from the head;
      • edible meat completely detached from the head and backbone;
      • finished taxidermy mounts; and
      • tanned hides.
    • you can transport cervid carcasses or parts through Yukon if you keep these in protective containers; and
    • you must properly dispose all butchering scraps and bones in a landfill so animals don't scatter them.

     

    The only exception to these rules are cervids:

    • harvested either in the Northwest Territories; or
    • in the 2 northern hunting zones in BC.

     

    The Government of Yukon prohibits the sale or possession of some scent lures used for hunting cervids. These scent lures contain urine and glands that can spread disease agents. Read the Baiting and Poisoning section of the Yukon hunting regulations summary for further information.

    For more information about the regulations to prevent the spread of CWD, email animalhealth.gov.yk.ca or phone: 867-667-5600, toll free in Yukon 1-800-661-0408 extension 5600.

    For more information about CWD, read this CWD fact sheet.

     

  3. Winter ticks

    Winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) are present in Yukon. Ticks are present on:

    • about half of all elk and deer; and
    • on very few moose and caribou.

     

    Winter ticks can cause severe disease in some species, particularly in moose. Heavy tick loads can cause hair loss, skin irritation, and blood loss. This can lead to starvation and death.

    Winter ticks don't pass directly from animal to animal. However, an increased number of ticks in the environment can lead to more affected animals.

    In Yukon, we are monitoring the presence and severity of winter ticks on:

    • elk;
    • moose;
    • deer; and
    • caribou.

     

    Wildlife technicians examine hides from road-killed and harvested animals.

    Winter ticks:

    • do not carry diseases of concern to humans or wildlife;
    • do not affect the meat of harvested animals; and
    • are unlikely to attach themselves to humans or dogs.

     

    Samples requested from hunters

    We ask that hunters voluntarily submit whole or partial hide samples to a Department of Environment office from:

    • elk;
    • deer;
    • moose; and
    • caribou.

     

    The examination does not damage the hide. We can return it to the hunter.

    Report ticks

    Report any observation of ticks on pets or wildlife to the Animal Health Unit. Email animalhealth.gov.yk.ca or phone: 867-667-5600 or toll free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, ext. 5600.

    For more information, read the winter ticks fact sheet.

     

  4. Rabies

    What is rabies?

    Rabies is a serious, fatal brain infection that:

    • is spread in the saliva through the bite of an infected animal;
    • often causes an infected animal to act aggressively;
    • is most often found in:
      • foxes;
      • wolves; and
      • coyotes; and
      • sometimes in bats;
      • all mammals are susceptible to rabies; and
      • in the North, is most often spread to dogs from infected Arctic foxes.
    • Rabies is present in wildlife in Alaska, BC and the NWT. Rabies hasn't been detected in Yukon since the 1970s. However, you must always consider the possibility of catching it if you're bitten by an animal.

     

    Rabies risk in wild animals

    If a wild animal bites someone, it's critical to find out what happened.

    • Was it acting normally?
    • If not, is rabies a risk?

     

    It's not always possible to identify the wild animal responsible for the bite. If the animal is captured or killed at the time of the bite, notify the chief veterinary officer. We will test the animal for rabies.

    Rabies risk in domestic animals

    Rabies vaccinations protect pets against the rabies virus. If the owner provides a current, valid vaccination certificate, we can discount rabies as a possible risk.

    If the vaccination is not current or the certificate is not available:

    • the animal will need to be observed for 10 days to confirm that rabies was not the cause of the bite;
    • this is not an official quarantine in most cases; and
    • health officials will request that the owner observe the animal for signs of illness and let us know if illness occurs.

     

    In all instances to date in Yukon, the observed animals have remained healthy. Once the observation period is over, you should vaccinate the animal against rabies.

    How to protect yourself

    Get medical attention for animal bites right away

    If a wild or domestic animal bites you:

    • get medical attention right away since bite wounds can result in infection; and
    • answer any questions about the bite incident from your healthcare provider.

     

    Rabies can be prevented if you get a series of vaccines called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (RPEP) soon after the bite. The Yukon chief medical officer of health determines if RPEP should be given using information provided by:

    • the patient; and
    • the animal owner if there is one.

     

    Report animal bites and unusual animal behaviour

    Report animal bites to the Animal health Unit, even if you don't suspect rabies. Phone: 867-667-5600 or toll free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, extension 5600.

    Bylaw officers and police enforce laws related to dangerous domestic animals. This process is separate from:

    • the medical assistance provided to the bitten person: and
    • the rabies investigation by the health officer and chief veterinary officer.

    Report sightings of unusual wild animal behaviour to the TIPP line. Phone: 1-800-661-0525.

     

    For more information, read this animal bites and rabies fact sheet.

  5. Other wildlife diseases

    Avian influenza virus

    Hunters have shot and eaten wild birds known to carry avian influenza for centuries without ill effects. Sick wild birds are often too weak to fly. They're more likely to die of natural causes than for hunters to shoot them.

    Cooking will kill the vast majority of pathogens, including avian influenza. Reduce your exposure to avian influenza by doing the following:

    • do not handle or consume:
      • sick birds; or
      • birds that have died from unknown causes;
    • avoid direct contact (skin or mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth) with:
      • blood;
      • feces; and
      • respiratory secretions of all wild birds;
    • while cleaning game do not:
      • eat;
      • drink; or
      • smoke;
    • while cleaning game wear:
      • dish gloves; or
      • latex gloves;
    • once you have finished processing game, immediately wash with soap and warm water:
      • gloves;
      • hands; and
      • clothing;
    • just like you would after handling raw chicken, wash tools and work surfaces with:
      • soap and warm water;
      • followed by a 10% solution of chlorine bleach; and
    • cook game meat thoroughly, to an internal temperature of approximately 72°C (160°F).

     

    Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

    Hantavirus infection is a rare but serious life-threatening illness. The virus is transmitted to humans through:

    • airborne particles; or
    • water contaminated with feces, urine, saliva or blood.

    Deer mice are the primary carrier of hantavirus, but other rodents may sometimes carry the virus.

    The disease does not cause illness in pets and it cannot be passed from person to person, or from pets to people.

    Read more about hantavirus.

    Sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes spp.)

    Animals affected by sarcoptic mange may display the following symptoms:

    • varying degrees of hair loss, usually on the legs and tail;
    • weak and in poor body condition; and
    • loss of their fear of people.

    Contact can transfer the parasite that causes mange. Pets are more susceptible than people.

    Mange is present in Yukon foxes and coyotes. These animals may recover, but sometimes the hair loss is so severe that they are not likely to survive the winter.

    We want to hear about reports of suspected mange in Yukon wildlife. It is important to discourage foxes from frequenting back yards. They can spread these parasites to pets and people if foxes:

    • they get under porches; or
    • into dog houses.

     

    Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)

    Tularemia (rabbit fever) is a rare but potentially serious disease. Tularemia is spread by:

    • drinking surface water contaminated by the waste or secretions of infected animals like hares, beavers and muskrats;
    • bites from flies that feed on infected wildlife.

     

    Tularemia is usually transmitted by contact with infected animals or their immediate environment, including:

    • handling, being bitten by or licked by animals;
    • skinning or handling dead animals;
    • breathing in air or dust contaminated with the bacteria; or
    • eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

     

    While cases of this disease are rare in Yukon, it can be serious. Cleanliness is important, as is protection from exposure to the animal's blood and other body fluids.

    • Avoid skinning or handling any animal that appears ill.
    • Wear gloves while skinning and gutting the animal.
    • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling animals.
    • If animal fluids splash in your eyes or mouth, flush thoroughly with clean water.
    • Make sure you cook the meat thoroughly.

     

    Consult your health care provider if you have symptoms after handling wildlife such as:

    • fever;
    • swollen glands; or
    • skin rash.

     

    Let them know what animal you were exposed to.

  6. Monitoring wildlife health

    The Government of Yukon tracks wildlife diseases in Yukon when they appear or are transmitted.

    We monitor and safeguards the health of wildlife populations. We:

    • conduct monitoring programs for diseases like rabies and chronic wasting disease;
    • test biological samples submitted by hunters;
    • examine found dead wild animals to determine the cause of death and if the animal had an infectious disease;
    • collect samples from captured wildlife to monitor health of species such as caribou, sheep and bison;
    • examine hides from elk, deer, moose and caribou for winter ticks to determine ticks':
      • prevalence; and
      • location.
    • Put regulations in place to prevent:
      • the introduction; and
      • the spread of disease to wildlife.

     

    Wood bison health monitoring

    The Government of Yukon wants to learn more about the health of the Aishihik wood bison herd.

    Submit any abnormal-looking tissues from your harvested bison. When you submit the head from a bison, we can collect samples and use them to evaluate various aspects of bison health. Heads will not be damaged and can be returned to the hunter.

    • The incisor bar is a compulsory sample.
    • Requested samples:
      • whole heads;
      • fecal matter; and
      • any body parts or tissue that appears abnormal.

     

    Place any abnormal tissues or body parts in a clean plastic bag. Put feces in a separate bag. Keep chilled and deliver to any Department of Environment office.

    Yukon bear research

    Bear research is:

    • expensive; and
    • information on bear populations in Yukon is sparse.

     

    We ask hunters to help gather information on grizzly and black bears.

    If you use a GPS unit when you hunt:

    1. record the location of your kill site; and
    2. bring that information and the hide to a Department of Environment office.

     

    A wildlife technician will map the location on a database and ask to take a small sample of hide (2 square centimetres).

    Location information ties the biological information of the bear to an exact location and habitat. We can use hide and hair sample:

    • for DNA;
    • to get information about diet; and
    • to detect the stress levels of the bear.

     

    The Government of Yukon uses information collected through this process to help shift hunting:

    • away from areas with declining populations; and
    • toward areas with healthy populations.

     

    Monitoring bird health

    We examine dead birds to learn about why they died, and collect samples to evaluate various aspects of bird health. In most cases, we can return birds to you after examination.

    Put each sample in a clean plastic bag and freeze it as soon as possible. Deliver the sample to any Department of Environment office.

    Monitoring fish health

    We want to learn more about the health of Yukon fish. We examine:

    • dead fish to learn about why they died; or
    • harvested fish that have abnormalities.

     

    We collect samples to evaluate various aspects of health.

    If you find dead or harvested fish with abnormalities, bring them to a Department of Environment office.

    Put each sample in a clean plastic bag and freeze as soon as possible.

    For information about fish health, read the Yukon fish health handbook.


Contact 

For questions about wildlife health, email animalhealth@gov.yk.ca or phone: 867-667-5600 or toll free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, ext. 5600.