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Results of survey for selected parasites in Alaska brown bears (Ursus arctos)

Cite this dataset

Haynes, Ellen et al. (2022). Results of survey for selected parasites in Alaska brown bears (Ursus arctos) [Dataset]. Dryad.


To assess the prevalence of endo- and ectoparasites in Alaska brown bears (Ursus arctos), blood and fecal samples were collected during 2013 – 2016 from five locations: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR), Katmai National Park (KATM), Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (LACL), Yakutat Forelands (YAK), and Kodiak Island (KOD). Standard fecal centrifugal-flotation was used to screen for gastrointestinal parasites, molecular techniques were used to test blood for the presence of Bartonella and Babesia spp., and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect antibodies to Sarcoptes scabiei, a species of mite recently associated with mange in American black bears (Ursus americanus). From fecal flotations (n=160), we identified the following helminths: Uncinaria sp. (n=16, 10.0%), Baylisascaris sp. (n=5, 3.1%), Dibothriocephalus sp. (n=2, 1.2%), and taeniid-type eggs (n=1, 0.6%). Molecular screening for intraerythrocytic parasites (Babesia spp.) and intracellular bacteria (Bartonella spp.) was negative for all bears tested. We detected antibodies to S. scabiei in six out of 59 (10.2%) individuals. The data set contains 238 rows, each row representing a capture/sampling event for an individual bear.  The location of the bear, month and year of sampling, and bear demographic information (ID number, sex, and age) are provided for each entry, as well as as which of the three tests (fecal flotation, Bartonella/Babesia PCR, Sarcoptes ELISA) were performed on samples collected during that capture event. Results are provided for each test when it was performed. For fecal flotation, there are columns for presence of the four detected parasite genera (1= present, 0 = absent), as well as a column for other fecal findings. For Bartonella/Babesia testing, a positive or negative result is provided when the tests were performed. For the Sarcoptes ELISA, results are provided based on bear positive controls and dog positive controls. Samples were reported as positive when they were positive when run with both positive controls. 


As part of ongoing inter-agency research, personnel from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey sampled 166 brown bears during July 2013–July 2017 at five locations: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR), Katmai National Park (KATM), Kodiak Island (KOD), Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (LACL), and the Yakutat Forelands. Bears were captured and handled as reported by Ramey et al. (2019), with all capture, handling, and sampling procedures approved by Animal and Care Use Committees for Alaska Department of Fish and Game (2013-028), NPS (2014.A2, 2014.A3), USFWS (2012-14), and USGS (2014-1, 2014-10, 2015-4, 2015-6). 

Feces were collected opportunistically from the rectums of 114 anesthetized bears from GAAR, KATM, KOD, and LACL one to five times during the study period, stored in 70% ethanol, then processed using double centrifugal flotation with Sheather’s sucrose solution (specific gravity 1.25). 

Blood was collected as described by Ramey et al. (2019) from 156 bears from all sites and tested for Bartonella and Babesia species, with 44 bears screened twice. Genomic DNA was extracted using a DNeasy® Blood and Tissue Kit (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany) following the manufacturer’s protocol. Nested PCR was performed using GoTaq® Flexi DNA Polymerase (Promega, Madison, Wisconsin, USA). For Bartonella spp., the ITS gene was targeted using the primers and cycling conditions described by Trataris et al. (2012). Primary PCR primers were QHVE-1 and QHVE-3; secondary primers were QHVE-12 and QHVE-14b. For Babesia spp., the 18S gene was targeted using primers and cycling conditions described by Yabsley et al. (2005). Primary PCR primers were 3.1 and 5.1; secondary primers were RLB-F and RLB-R. Amplicons were purified using the QIAquick gel extraction kit (Qiagen) and submitted for bi-directional sequencing at the Georgia Genomics and Bioinformatics Core (Athens, Georgia, USA). 

Serum samples (n=59) were collected from 53 individual bears in 2016 and 2017 from GAAR, LACL, and KATM and tested for antibodies to Sarcoptes scabiei using a commercial indirect ELISA kit designed for domestic dogs (Sarcoptes-ELISA 2001, Afosa, Germany). Modifications for use in black bears (Ursus americanus) were implemented as described (Niedringhaus et al. 2020). 


Relevent Citations:

Niedringhaus KD, Brown JD, Ternent M, Peltier SK, Van Wick P, Yabsley MJ. 2020. Serology as a tool to investigate sarcoptic mange in American black bears (Ursus americanus) J Wildl Dis 56:350-358. 

Ramey AM, Cleveland CA, Hilderbrand GV, Joly K, Gustine DD, Mangipane B, Leacock WB, Crupi AP, Hill DE, Dubey JP, Yabsley MJ. 2019. Exposure of Alaska brown bears (Ursus arctos) to bacterial, viral, and parasitic agents varies spatiotemporally and may be influenced by age. J Wildl Dis 55:576-588. 

Trataris AN, Rossouw J, Arntzen L, Karstaedt A, Frean J. 2012. Bartonella spp. in human and animal populations in Gauteng, South Africa, from 2007 to 2009. J Vet Res 79:E1–8 

Yabsley MJ, Davidson WR, Stallknecht DE, Varela AS, Swift PK, Devos Jr. JC, Dubay SA. 2005. Evidence of tick-borne organisms in Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) from the Western United States. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 5:351-362.