Apr 15, 2024 - News

A deadly disease is ravaging Utah's beavers and humans can get it

A beaver chews on a stick in a river in Boise, Idaho. Photo: Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A beaver chews on a stick in a river in Boise, Idaho. Photo: Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A disease that is causing a spate of beaver deaths in northern Utah can be transmitted to humans, too, state wildlife officers announced Monday.

Driving the news: Nine beavers have been found dead since March 23 in Utah, Summit and Wasatch counties, per the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

  • Three were tested and found to be carrying tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, hare plague and deer fly fever.

Zoom in: The disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by tick and deer fly bites, direct contact with an infected animal's blood or tissue, drinking contaminated water or eating undercooked meat from an infected animal.

Threat level: In addition to infecting rabbits and rodents, tularemia also can infect humans — usually via bug bite.

  • "The disease can be life-threatening for people if not treated quickly," the DWR reported, but most infections are treatable with antibiotics, per the CDC.
  • Symptoms in humans vary, but they may include an ulcer on the skin where the bite occurred, swollen glands in the armpit or groin or coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Flashback: The most recent wildlife death from tularemia confirmed in Utah was a rabbit near Kanab in 2017.

Pro tip: Call your nearest DWR office to report any dead rabbits, beavers or other rodents.

  • Wear bug repellant and long sleeves and pants to avoid bites, and check for ticks after visiting brushy areas, DWR officers advised.
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