FAQs

Who picks up dead animals?

The Wildlife Commission does not provide dead animal removal service.The N.C. Department of Transportation can be contacted at 877-368-4968 to remove dead animals along state maintained roads and highways. Additionally, some cities/counties will offer a curbside pick-up service for dead animals. Our biologists are currently collecting information on black bears and collecting tooth samples from bear carcasses. If you have a dead bear on your property, or have seen one on the road, please report it to 866-318-2401 so a biologist can be notified.

 

An animal is out during the day, does it have rabies?

No. Simply seeing an animal out during the day does not mean it has rabies. Some animals in urban/suburban locations will come out during the day due to the lack of threats posed by people and the abundance of food available. However, if the animal shows signs of rabies- such as aggression, stumbling, unresponsiveness, or foaming at the mouth- call your local animal control.

Who do I call if I have come into contact with a rabid animal?

If you have had direct contact with a potentially rabid animal, you should immediately contact a physician or the local health department for further guidance and possible treatment.

Will NC WRC remove an unusual acting animal?

The NC WRC does not provide any trapping or wildlife removal services. If there has been a potential rabies exposure to a person or unvaccinated pet, contact your local Animal Control or Health Department.

Has Chronic Wasting Disease been detected in North Carolina?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been detected in North Carolina, but it has been detected in two of the surrounding states (Virginia and Tennessee). To learn more about this disease, visit https://www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/CWD

 


Call 866-318-2401

Monday- Friday 8am- 5pm

HWI@ncwildlife.org

Common Wildlife Diseases

 

Maintaining a healthy population of wildlife is important for many reasons. Emerging infections in wildlife have led to declines in species and species diversity around the globe. Some types of wildlife pathogens can also affect people, pets or livestock and therefore have important human health, welfare, and economic implications. 

 

  • Do not handle wildlife, their body parts or droppings without proper hand protection.
  • If you think you were potentially exposed to a diseased animal, contact your local health department.  
  • Wash hands and other areas of exposure after handling a wild animal. 

 

 

 

Bat Diseases

Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic fugus called Histoplasma. The fungus occurs naturally in the environment and soils that contain large amounts of bird feces and bat guano. In addition, structures (such as attic spaces) infested with bat guano could potentially contain fungus spores. People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in fungal spores from the air. 

For more information about histoplasmosis, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Which species are affected?

Bats and other species can get histoplasmosis and spread the fungus in their droppings. 

What does histoplasmosis look like?

Histoplasmosis is not visible to the naked eye and can only be seen with a microscope. Time from exposure to showing signs of infection can take 3-17 days. Signs and symptoms of histoplasmosis include fever, cough, fatigue, chills, headache, chest pain, and body aches. 

How harmful is it?

Histoplasmosis does not affect bats or birds that carry the fungus in their feces. The fungus only effects other animals or humans that breathe in the spores. 

Are people or pets at risk?

Histoplasmosis is more likely to affect people who have HIV/AIDs or a weakened immune system. Most people who breathe in the spores do not get sick. Those who do get sick have flu-like symptoms and get better on their own without medication. However, individuals with weakened immune symptoms can develop a severe infection, especially if the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body. Dogs and cats are also susceptible to this disease. 

If there are bird feces or bat guano in or near your home, you should have it cleaned up, if possible. If it cannot be cleaned up, the area should be left undisturbed. Large accumulations of bat feces can create health concerns when it is in a confined, indoor space where it could dry out and become dust-like. See this document for how to safely clean and remove bat droppings or hire a professional company.

Rabies

To learn more about rabies visit the Rabies Section below.

White Nose Syndrome (WNS)

White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by a species of fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans; Pd for short) which grows in cold, damp environments. The fungus grows on the bats bare skin (e.g. the face and nose) and causes them to come out of their inactive winter state, which burns off their stored fat reserves and leads to eventual death. White-nose syndrome was first confirmed in North Carolina in 2011 and has continued to spread since it’s initial discovery. NCWRC biologists are actively trying to monitor the disease by conducting yearly surveying efforts across the state. 

 

 

 

Which species are affected?

White-nose Syndrome affects bats. Only bats that hibernate for the winter are susceptible to WNS and smaller species (e.g. little brown bats and tricolored bats) are more at risk than larger species.

What does WNS look like?

One of the primary signs of WNS is the presence of white fungus on a bats face, wings, ears and/or tail. It can also cause holes and spotting to occur on the wings of affected bats. Bats flying around outside during colder temperatures, or clustered on the ground near the entrance of hibernation sites (e.g. caves, buildings, trees) are also possible indicators that these have contracted WNS.

How harmful is it?

WNS is known to cause mass mortality rates with 90-100% bat mortality reported in some caves. 

Are people and pets at risk?

There is no evidence that suggests that humans or any other animal can contract WNS. However, it is possible for fungal spores from the disease to survive for long periods of time on human clothes and hiking equipment, so it is important to disinfect your shoes, clothes, and accessories if you visit areas where bats are known to hibernate.


Bird Diseases

Avian Influenza

Avian influenza is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses which occur naturally in wild birds. There are many different strains of avian influenza which are categorized into two groups based on how they affect poultry. These categories are low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). These viruses get transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or surfaces contaminated with infected fecal matter, nasal secretions, or saliva. 

In poultry flocks, HPAI viruses are serious cause for concern. HPAI viruses can mutate easily and spread rapidly from flock to flock.  The HPAI outbreak that occurred from 2014-2015 was the largest poultry disaster in US history, causing a loss of more that 50 million birds. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) responds to suspected HPAI cases in poultry. 

What species are affected?

Many bird species have been reported with avian influenza. Avian influenza viruses are primarily found in aquatic birds and poultry. Waterfowl and shorebirds are considered reservoirs for avian influenza meaning they can carry the virus with no health implications. Certain strains of the virus have been reported in mammals, including people.

What does avian influenza look like?

Wild birds are primarily infected with LPAI and do not show any signs. Poultry with LPAI may go undetected but can have decreases in egg production and egg quality.  

HPAI viruses are mainly found in poultry. Signs of HPAI in poultry include: discoloration on the unfeather parts of the body (legs, wattles and combs), lethargy, nasal discharge, swelling of the head, diarrhea, and coughing and sneezing.  

How harmful is it?

LPAI viruses in wild birds generally do not cause any health problems. HPAI viruses can cause mortality. Poultry are very vulnerable HPAI viruses which spread rapidly when birds are in confined spaces and can cause up to 100% mortality. 

Is there a risk to people or pets?

Three subtypes of avian influenza (H5, H7 and H9) are known to infect people with most infection coming from the HPAI Asian lineage H7H9 and H5N1 viruses. The CDC considers avian influenza to be low risk to public health in the United States. As a general precaution, people should avoid direct contact with birds that are dead or appear sick and any surfaces that are contaminated with feces. While rare, pets can be affected by certain strains of avian influenza. 

Avian Pox

Avian pox is a disease caused by various strains of the poxvirus. The disease is primarily transmitted by biting insects but can also be spread by consuming contaminated feed or water or by direct contact with other infected birds. Avian pox presents itself in two different ways. The most common is the dry form which causes lesions to develop on the unfeathered areas of the body such as the feet, legs, eyelids, and beak. The wet form is more severe and causes mucus build up in the upper respiratory tract. 

To keep from facilitating the spread of the disease, it is important to temporality take down feeding stations if sick birds are present. It is good practice to regularly clean bird feeders with a 10% bleach solution. 

What species can be affected by avian pox?

Many bird species can be affected by avian pox including eagles, songbirds, turkeys, and owls. Different strains of the poxvirus will target different species. 

What are signs of avian pox?

The dry form of avian pox causes wart-like growths to develop on the unfeathered parts of the body.  This is very similar to squirrel fibromas and cutaneous fibromas on deer. The wet form will cause the bird to have labored breathing and difficulty eating. 

How harmful is it?

Mild cases of the dry form are often not lethal and can clear up on their own. In severe cases, the growths will impede the bird’s ability to see and will lead to death due to difficulty finding food and avoiding predators. The wet form is often lethal. 

Are people or pets at risk?

Domestic bird species can be affected by avian pox. High densities of birds in small areas such as apiaries have greater transmission rates. There is no evidence that people and other pets can get avian pox. 

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis in birds is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum.  Originally only found in domestic poultry and turkeys, the first reported case in a wild species was a house finch in 1994 and has since been reported in other songbird species. Conjunctivitis causes eyes to become swollen, watery, or crusty looking.  In severe cases the bird can become blind due to the eyes swelling shut.  

Conjunctivitis is thought to be spread  through direct contact with an infected individual or contaminated surfaces. Bird feeders may facilitate the spread of conjunctivitis as they attract large numbers of birds into close contact. To help keep from spreading the disease, it is important to regularly clean bird feeders with a 10% bleach solution. 

Which species can be affected by conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is primarily seen in house finches, but other songbird species have been reported to contract it such as purple finches, goldfinches, evening grosbeaks, and tufted titmice.  

What are the signs of conjunctivitis?

The infection causes eyes to become swollen, red, and watery or crusty looking.  Conjunctivitis can lead respiratory infections so nasal discharge can be seen. Birds will often become lethargic and have poor body condition.

How harmful is it?

Some birds can overcome conjunctivitis, but many die from starvation or predation. 

Are people or pets at risk?

Domestic bird species (including domestic chickens, domestic turkey, and pen-raised game birds) may be susceptible to conjunctivitis. People and other pets cannot contract conjunctivitis from birds. 

Salmonella

Salmonella is a disease in birds caused by bacteria of the genus Salmonella. Infections can cause swelling of the lungs, spleen and liver as well as lesions on the esophagus.  The disease is spread by consuming contaminated fecal matter and is often associated with feeding stations. Birdfeeders facilitate the spread of the disease by attracting high densities of birds into close contact. Salmonellosis is often seen in the winter months when birds rely more heavily on feeders. It is important to regularly clean bird feeders in a 10% bleach solution and to temporality remove them if dead or sick birds are found in the area.

What species are affected?

Many animals are either affected or carry salmonella bacteria such as humans, birds, reptiles, livestock, and rodents. 

What are the signs of salmonella?

Signs of salmonella in birds includes listlessness, loss of appetite, increased thirst, diarrhea, tremors, and labored breathing.  

How harmful is it?

While some birds do overcome the disease, it is usually lethal.

Are people and pets at risk?

People and pets can get salmonella from handling infected birds. To avoid getting the disease wear gloves when handling any sick or dead animals and thoroughly wash hands after touching bird feeders or any surfaces that could be contaminated. 

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus (WNV) is an infectious disease that can be transmitted when an animal or person is bitten by an infected mosquito. The virus primarily affects birds, with crows and jays being the most susceptible to mortality from the disease. In addition to birds, WNV can be contracted by humans, pets, and other species of wildlife, although infections are most often mild in these cases. In rare cases WNV can cause more severe life-threatening symptoms in humans.  

Individuals concerned about contracting WNV should avoid contact with mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and long pants and using appropriate mosquito repellents. Especially during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Residents should also check around their homes and empty any containers holding water such as tires and flowerpots that may attract mosquitoes to your area. Also, for standing water features such as birdbaths and fountains, residents can replace the water daily or place a mosquito deterrent or killer into the water. Be sure to follow all appropriate instructions per the product's label. 

For more information, visit the CDC’s website addressing West Nile Virus here.

 

Which species are affected?

WNV primarily affects birds but has also been detected in humans, cats, dogs, horses, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits, alligators and bats.

What does West Nile Virus look like?

Most birds that become infected with WNV do not show any signs of the illness. However, if they do become infected, signs may include uncoordinated walking, lethargy, tremors, inability to fly, blindness, lack of awareness, and abnormal body posture. For birds that do display signs, death typically occurs within 24 to 48 hours.

How harmful is it?

WNV has been detected in over 300 species of birds. Crows and jays will likely die if they contract WNV, however most other species are able to survive and fight off the disease if they become infected.

Are people and pets at risk?

Humans and pets can contract WNV from infected mosquitos. Symptoms of WNV are most often limited to headaches, mild fevers, and other flu-like symptoms. However, in rare cases (CDC estimates less than 1% of infected people) the disease can affect the central nervous system by causing encephalitis, meningitis, and death. Fortunately, most individuals (up to 80%) infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms, either mild or severe. 


Deer Diseases

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal disease that affects cervids (i.e. deer, elk, moose, reindeer) and is caused by transmission of prions which attack an animal’s nervous system. The disease can be spread through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments. The disease causes progressive degeneration of an animals physical and mental faculties. Although there have been no confirmed cases of CWD in NC, biologists have conducted routine surveillance efforts for the disease since 1999, so that appropriate action can be taken in the event of a CWD outbreak.

To learn more about CWD, see our Chronic Wasting Disease page.

Which species are affected?

CWD is known to affect North American cervids, which include white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and reindeer. 

What does Chronic Wasting Disease look like?

CWD has a long incubation period which causes signs to take months or even years to develop. As the disease progresses infected animals will begin to display a variety of changes in both behavior and appearance. Signs can include: drastic weight loss, stumbling, lethargy, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears, aggression, and loss of fear of humans. 

How harmful is it?

Once infected, CWD is always fatal There are currently no treatments or vaccines that have been developed to successfully treat the disease.

Are people and pets at risk?

There is no current evidence that suggests that humans or their pets can contract CWD. Nonetheless, caution is advised when hunting and dressing deer. Hunters are advised not to consume meat from animals known to be infected and to be wary of consuming venison from any animal with obvious signs of illness.

Cutaneous Fibromas

Cutaneous fibromas are wart-like growths that develop on the skin. In deer, these growths are caused by a strain of the papilloma virus that is spread by biting insects. White-tail deer are primarily affected by the virus, but it has been reported in other cervids (deer, elk, moose, etc).  While unattractive, fibromas only impact the skin and not the overall health of the deer. Harvested deer are safe to eat unless a fibroma has developed a secondary bacterial infection. 

What species are affected?

Many species can develop fibromas from various viruses. The virus that causes fibromas in white-tailed deer can only be spread to other cervids. 

What do cutaneous fibromas look like?

Cutaneous fibromas are characterized by hairless, wart-like growths on the skin that vary in white, gray or black coloration. Fibromas can vary greatly in size and grow to be 8 or more inches in diameter. The growths can be solitary or found in clusters.  

How harmful is it?

Fibromas generally do not impact the health of the deer and can even clear up on their own. They can become problematic if they impede the deer’s ability to eat, breathe, or see. 

Are people and pets at risk?

People, livestock and pets cannot contract the virus that causes cutaneous fibromas. 

Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)

Hemorrhagic disease is an annually occurring disease that affects populations of white-tailed deer across the United States. The disease is caused by an infectious, virus that is transmitted by biting midges/flies which are most active in the fall season. The term hemorrhagic disease is used to describe two different, but closely related viruses, blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Signs of both diseases are nearly indistinguishable from one another.

To learn more about Hemorrhgic Disease, visit our Deer Disease page.

Which species are affected?

Hemorrhagic disease primarily affects white-tailed deer in North Carolina. Other ruminant species such as elk, cattle, sheep, and goats can also become infected with the disease.

What does hemorrhagic disease look like?

In some cases, deer affected with Hemorrhagic disease will display little to no symptoms of an infection, especially if they were previously exposed to the disease. If a deer does show signs of infection, these often include: fever, swollen head or neck, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, ulcers on their tongue or mouth, and an eroded dental pad. Mortality from hemorrhagic disease most commonly takes place near water sources (e.g. pond, lake, creek) because of high fever. Deer that do not have any prior immunity to the disease will typically die within 5-10 days after infection. 

How harmful is it?

The severity of hemorrhagic disease is affected by a variety of factors (e.g. herd density, midge abundance, previous exposure) and mortality rates vary regionally across the state as well as across years. Deer herds that have been previously exposed to hemorrhagic disease can fight off an infection. Meanwhile, deer which have not been previously exposed to the disease are more likely to die from the disease. Normal deer die-offs associated with hemorrhagic disease occur annually in North Carolina, with larger outbreaks occurring periodically every few years.

Are people and pets at risk?

Hemorrhagic disease does not pose any significant health risks to people and domestic pets. Hunters do not need to be concerned about consuming venison from infected deer.  As always, hunters should be cautious of consuming venison from any animal with obvious signs of illness. 

Nasal Bots

Nasal bots are the larvae of a maggot style fly in the genus Cephenemyia. An adult fly will lay a group of eggs around the nose or mouth of a deer and the eggs are released when the deer licks the eggs. The larvae then move to the nasal passages and sometimes the sinuses where they develop into larger stages of mature larvae. Once fully mature, nasal bots will exit the deer, pupate in the ground for 2-3 weeks and emerge as adult flies.

Which species are affected?

Many wildlife species and humans can be hosts of bot flies. Different species of bot flies affect different wildlife species. Bot fly larvae found in white-tailed deer only affect members in the deer family (white-tailed deer, elk, mule deer, etc.). Other wildlife species that are commonly seen with bot fly larvae include squirrels and rabbits. To learn more about bot flies in squirrels, click here. 

What do nasal bots look like?

Bot fly larvae are white to yellowish-brown in color and range from 1-2 inches in length. 

How harmful is it?

The larvae typically cause little or no harm to deer, except for some minor discomfort associated with irritation of the sinuses and nasal passages. Some sneezing and coughing in deer is assumed to be the result of nasal bots. No sores, infection or other problems have been reported even when the parasites are large in number. 

Are people or pets at risk?

Nasal bots that occur in deer do not affect humans or pets. However, there are species of bot flies that can affect human and pets. Cases in pets are uncommon and the fly species that can affect humans only occur in Mexico and Central America. To learn more about bot fly larva in humans, click here. Nasal bots that occur in deer are most often encountered by hunters while field dressing a deer. When a deer’s body cools down, these larvae sometimes migrate into the throat region or into the open body cavity of the deer. It is here that unsuspecting hunters often find the larvae. Nasal bots do not make the carcass unfit for human consumption. 


Distemper

Canine Distemper is a disease caused by a paramyxovirus. The virus is transmitted by inhaling contagious particles or coming into direct contact with infected individuals. The virus is passed through the feces, urine and secretions of infected animals. Cases of this disease occur year-round but tend to occur more often in the spring and summer when many wildlife species are having offspring. 

To learn more about canine distemper, visit AVMA’s document on Canine Distemper. 


Which species are affected?

Any wild or domestic carnivore can contract canine distemper. In the Southeast, canine distemper is rarely found in red foxes, but frequent in gray foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Skunks, otters, ferrets, and other mustelids can also be susceptible to canine distemper.

What does canine distemper look like?

Signs include discharge from the eyes and nose, difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting and thickening of the nose and footpads. Canine distemper can also have a neurologic phase that produces signs similar to rabies, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the two diseases without testing. To learn more about rabies, click here. 

How harmful is it?

Canine Distemper is often fatal, especially for juvenile animals, and has a mortality rate of nearly 100% in mustelids (weasels, otter, mink, ferret, etc.) 

Are people or pets at risk?

People are not at risk of contracting canine distemper. However, dogs can become infected. The disease has a mortality rate of 50% in adult dogs and 80% in puppies. The best prevention is having your pets vaccinated. If you or your pet have come into direct contact with an animal showing symptoms of this disease, contact your local animal control. 


Mange

Mange is a skin disease caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin to lay their eggs. Several species of mites cause mange, but each one affects a different species of animal. While the presence of mites doesn’t always cause mange, animals with weakened immune systems can develop visible infestations that lead to severe skin irritation and hair loss.  

Mange-causing mites are slow-moving and require prolonged contact to crawl onto a new host. Exposure can occur by spending time with infested animals or in areas infested with mites. Mites can survive for several weeks without a host, particularly in humid, low-temperature environments.

For more information about mange, check out this Disease Fact Sheet.


Which species are affected?

Mange can affect both wild and domestic mammals. Wild animals that can be infected include red foxes, coyotes, white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, and black bears.

What does mange look like?

The primary sign of mange is hair loss and thinning which can occur in patches across the entire body. Mange can also cause skin thickening and scabbing, particularly in areas that have already lost significant amounts of fur. Animals with severe infestations may act lethargic or distracted due to constant pain and itching in the affected areas. 

How harmful is it?

Most healthy animals that contract mites never develop mange or can overcome a light infestation with very few lasting side effects. However, the condition can be fatal in smaller mammals (e.g. squirrels) or heavily infected animals that have lost substantial amounts of fur and are unable to keep warm during cold weather. Red foxes, in particular, are susceptible to severe infestations.

Are people or pets at risk?

It is rare for humans and pets to contract mange from wild animals. Mange can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with infested animals or areas where those animals have been laying. Mange in humans and domestic pets is highly treatable with medication. Infestations in humans typically appear as a rash which resolves itself in one to two weeks’ time. 


Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that can affect any  mammal. The virus can be transmitted when the saliva, blood, or nervous tissue of an infected animal comes in contact with broken skin or any mucous membrane such as in the eyes, nose or mouth. The virus infects the central nervous system and ultimately causes death. Rabies travels from the brain to the salivary glands during the final stage of the disease—this is when an animal can spread the disease, most commonly through a bite. There are different strains of rabies but the most common type in North Carolina is raccoon-variant rabies. 

To learn more about rabies and distemper, visit https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html or https://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rabies.html


Which species are affected?

All species of mammals can contract rabies. In North Carolina, rabies is most commonly found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. However, other species, such as deer, coyote and bobcats, have been found to be infected with rabies.

What does rabies look like?

Any wildlife that appears ill or exhibiting unusual behavior may be showing signs of rabies. The first signs of rabies may be nonspecific and include lethargy, fever, vomiting, and anorexia. Signs progress within days to disorientation, erratic behavior, weakness, paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression, and/or self-mutilation. However, most of these signs can also be indicative of other diseases like distemper or lead poisoning. To learn more about distemper, click here. There are few behavioral signs that are telltale of rabies alone. 

How harmful is it?

Rabies ultimately causes death in infected individuals usually within days after the onset of symptoms. 

Are people or pets at risk?

People and pets can get rabies from a rabid animal or possibly through scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes that come in contact with saliva or brain tissue from a rabid animal. Rabies can’t go through unbroken skin. The rabies virus is short-lived when exposed to open air—it can only survive in saliva and dies when the animal’s saliva dries up. If you come across wildlife that looks ill or is acting strangely, give it a wide berth. If you handle a pet who has been in a fight with a potentially rabid animal, take precautions such as wearing gloves to keep any still-fresh saliva from getting into an open wound. To prevent rabies in pets, keep rabies vaccinations current and supervise pets outside or keep dogs on a leash. If you or your pet have come into contact with an animal showing symptoms of rabies, contact your local health department and local animal control. 


Raccoon Diseases

Rabies

To learn more about rabies visit the Rabies Section above.

Raccoon Roundworm

Raccoon roundworm is an intestinal parasite infection of Baylisascaris worms. There are many species of Baylisascaris and each parasite is associated with a different host species. Raccoons are the primary host of Baylisascaris procyonis. Raccoon roundworm eggs are passed in the feces of infected raccoons and must develop in the environment to become infectious. Cases of Baylisascaris are uncommon in the southeastern states but infections can be severe. Contracting roundworms can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with raccoons and their feces. 

To learn more about raccoon roundworm visit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Which species are affected?

Raccoons are the primary host of this roundworm; however, other types of animals can become infected such as birds and small mammals. Raccoons become infected with this parasite by eating infectious roundworm eggs during foraging, feeding and grooming. They can also become infected by eating rodents, rabbits, and birds that are infected with roundworm larvae. 

What does raccoon roundworm look like?

Raccoon roundworm eggs are not visible and can only be seen with a microscope. Time from exposure to showing symptoms of raccoon roundworm can take 1 to 4 weeks. Signs and symptoms in humans can include nausea, tiredness, liver enlargement, loss of coordination, loss of muscle control, and blindness. 

How harmful is it?

Raccoon roundworm does not cause any harm to raccoons. The parasite only effects other animals or humans that ingest the infectious larvae. Once ingested, eggs hatch into larvae in the intestines and travel throughout the body, affecting organs and muscles. Signs and symptoms vary depending on how many eggs are ingested and where the larvae move to in the body. 

Are people or pets at risk?

Raccoon roundworm can infect people and a variety of wildlife and domestic pets. However, fewer than 25 cases of Baylisascaris have been documented in the United States. Children or those who are more likely to put dirt or animal waste in their mouth by mistake have a higher risk of ingesting the parasite. Pets can also become infected by eating infectious feces or eating an animal that has been infected with raccoon roundworm.  It takes 2-4 weeks for the eggs in raccoon feces to become infectious in the environment. Prompt removal of raccoon feces will reduce risk for exposure. See this document for directions on how to clean-up raccoon feces. 


Squirrel Diseases

Bot Flies

Bot flies are obligate parasites during their larval stage, meaning they need a host to survive.  Larvae of the genus Cuterebra are commonly found in squirrels.  A female bot fly will lay her eggs in an area where a squirrel will encounter them, usually by a den site. 

Once on the animal the increase in temperature causes the eggs to hatch. The hatched larvae will move through an opening on the body and into an area underneath the skin where they will develop for up to 7 weeks. During this time larvae are commonly called warbles. Each warble will create an opening in skin which allows it to breathe and will emerge from the same opening as a pupa. The pupa burrow into the ground during the winter months before becoming adult bot flies. Warbles are commonly noticed in late summer and early fall. 

Which species can be affected by bot flies?

Different genera of bot flies prefer different species as hosts such as rodents, horses, deer, and mink. Bot flies of the genus Cuterebra utilize rodents and rabbits.  The genus Cephenemyia affect deer. Click here to learn more about bot flies in deer. 

What are the signs of bot flies?

A squirrel with warbles appears to have hairless growths with dark openings in the skin. Warbles look very similar to squirrel pox but can be distinguished by the opening at the top of each growth. One squirrel can be host to multiple warbles. 

How harmful is it?

Warbles need their hosts to survive so they are usually not lethal. Once the warble emerges, the opening in the skin heals. They can impact an animal’s health if there is a large infestation or the squirrel develops a secondary infection.

Are people or pets at risk?

It is rare for people to have warbles. While uncommon, pets can be accidental hosts but they cannot get infected from other animals with warbles.

Squirrel Pox

Squirrel Fibroma Virus, sometimes referred to as Squirrel Pox, is a viral disease which primarily affects squirrels. The virus can be transmitted by biting insect vectors like mosquitos, or through direct contact with already infected animals. Because already infected squirrels can easily transmit the disease to other squirrels in the area, it is important to temporarily remove bird feeders (or other squirrel attractants) from your yard if you suspect that there are infected animals in your area.

Which species are affected?

Squirrel Fibroma virus primarily affects squirrels, with gray and fox squirrels being the most commonly affected species in North Carolina. The virus can also be transmitted to groundhogs and rabbits, although contraction of the virus is uncommon in these animals. There are many different species of similarly related viruses which can cause fibromas in other wildlife species, however these are typically species-specific viruses. Click here to learn more about fibromas in deer.

What does Squirrel Pox look like?

The virus causes squirrels to develop growths and sometimes scabbing across their body. These growths typically have little to no hair on them and vary in size (they can be anywhere from 1/16 – 1 inch in diameter). Squirrel Fibromas are similar in appearance to cutaneous warbles from bot flies but can be distinguished from warbles because they do not have large black openings in the center of the growths. 

How harmful is it?

In some cases, squirrels can fight off a mild infection and can recover from the virus with no permanent side effects or growths. In more severe cases, animals will likely be unable to fight off the infection, and the virus will lead to emaciation and eventual death.

Are people and pets at risk?

Humans, cats, and dogs cannot contract squirrel fibroma virus. Although uncommon, it is possible for domestic or pet rabbits to contract the disease.


Whirling Disease

Whirling disease is caused by an invasive, microscopic parasite known as Myxobolus cerebralis. The parasite has two hosts during its life cycle, a worm (Tubifex tubifex) and a salmonid fish. The parasitic spores first infect the Tubifex worm and after developing, the parasite is released into the water. The parasite floats along the water column until it encounters a susceptible fish. Once attached to the fish’s skin, the parasite enters the body and travels through the nervous system feeding on cartilage and begins to multiply. Damage to the cartilage and skeletal tissue causes the fish to swim erratically (whirling). In 2015, the disease was confirmed in rainbow trout collected from a North Carolina river. If you observe any signs of whirling disease in fish, report the observation here. 

For more information, visit our Whirling Disease page.


Which species are affected?

Whirling disease only affects fish in the trout and salmon family (Salmonoid). Rainbow and brook trout are the most susceptible species to this disease. 

What does whirling disease look like?

Physical signs of whirling disease include darkened tail, twisted spine and/or deformed head.

How harmful is it?

Whirling disease can alter feeding habits and the ability to avoid predators. Due to undeveloped skeletal tissue, juvenile fish are more vulnerable to whirling disease than adults. The severity of infection decreases with increased age in fish. There is no known cure for whirling disease in fish.

Are people or pets at risk?

The disease does not affect humans or pets. Eating an infected fish is not known to cause any harmful effects. Though this disease is not a risk to human health, take precautions to clean all fishing equipment properly, do not transport live fish from one water body to another and dispose of fish parts appropriately. This will help reduce the spread of the disease to other bodies of water. 


Seen a Sick Deer?

If you have seen or harvested a sick deer, please call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401.

Signs to look for:

  • Isolation from other animals
  • Listlessness or showing little or no interest in their surroundings
  • Lack of coordination
  • Frequent lowering of the head
  • Blank facial expressions
  • Walking in set patterns    
  • Drooling and grinding of teeth
  • Drinking lots of water and increased urination
  • Low weight

For more information, see our Chronic Wasting Disease Fact Sheet (PDF).