February 01, 2010

CRI in the NEWS

This article was written and appeared online at CBC PEI on Jan 9th and featured the research project of Garry Gregory, an MSc candidate supervised by Dr. Mike van den Heuvel (CRI Fellow).

Disease could be killing Island muskrats: researcher

A contagious bacterial disease could be contributing to the decline in Prince Edward Island's muskrat population, says a graduate student from the Atlantic Veterinary College. Gary Gregory, who is studying the problem, presented his preliminary findings to the P.E.I. Trappers Association on Saturday.

"At least in one area where we examined, we found a disease — Tyzzer's Disease — that had not previously been found on Prince Edward Island, which is known to cause muskrat death," he said.

"It can cause the animals to become lethargic, not eat properly, and it can also just cause death in animals without any clinical signs at all.

"It's difficult to determine whether this is playing an important role in this decline or not."

The research was prompted by reports from trappers of declining muskrat catches in marshes across the Island, said Gregory. Areas that used to produce about 200 muskrats several years ago now only have about a dozen, he said. The provincial government commissioned the study to find out what was going wrong. Muskrats have historically made up about half of the province's fur harvest. They are an important source of food for foxes, coyotes and birds of prey.

Gregory, who is about halfway through his two-year project, said his research hasn't revealed any problems with muskrat reproduction. He plans to look into the effect of contaminants next. If environmental factors are hurting the muskrat population, they could affect other species as well, he said.
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