Fish and wildlife are susceptible to naturally-occurring and introduced diseases caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, prions, and protozoans. Animals exposed to pathogens may exhibit illness or death or show no signs of disease if the pathogen is cleared by the animal’s immune system, or they may serve as carriers or reservoirs of the pathogen. In susceptible individuals and species, disease spreads quickly when large numbers of animals are concentrated naturally during migration, when they are artificially fed, or when they congregate during breeding or due to limited habitat. Emerging and novel diseases can have devastating effects on wildlife, human health, and local economies. Climate change may increase susceptibility of fish and wildlife to disease by altering ecosystem dynamics, increasing opportunities to spread disease, and raising animals’ stress response, potentially making them more susceptible to disease and illness if they become exposed. Although not a disease, ocean hypoxia and acidification may have similar effects on populations of some marine species (see the Oregon Nearshore Strategy).

People can help to prevent unnatural disease outbreaks by remembering not to feed wildlife, vaccinating pets, and providing and managing natural habitat. Licensed Oregon wildlife rehabilitators care for sick or injured wild animals with the goal of returning them to their natural habitat, and provide valuable educational information and outreach to the public. In addition, accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums facilities in Oregon (e.g., Oregon Zoo, Wildlife Safari, Oregon Coast Aquarium) provide valuable public education, outreach, and conservation projects related to the health of Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their native habitats.

Endemic disease is a natural part of every ecosystem. However, introduced and emerging diseases not only threaten the balance of ecosystem health but can be very difficult and costly to eradicate once established. The best action to avoid unwanted disease outbreaks is prevention. The ODFW’s biologists, veterinarians, and wildlife administrators make every effort to protect the state’s fish and wildlife through surveillance, monitoring, training, response plans, policy, and regulation. Listed below are the diseases that present the greatest management concern or that present significant or recurring health risk to Oregon’s fish and wildlife. This list includes diseases that occur naturally or are endemic in Oregon, as well as diseases that are introduced or emerging. The list is not inclusive of all diseases identified in Oregon fish and wildlife.

Wildlife Diseases of Management COncern

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