The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population in California (USA) and the Alaskan sea otter (E. lutris kenyoni) population in the Aleutian Islands (USA) chain have recently declined. In order to evaluate disease as a contributing factor to the declines, health assessments of these two sea otter populations were conducted by evaluating hematologic and/or serum biochemical values and exposure to six marine and terrestrial pathogens using blood collected during ongoing studies from 1995 through 2000. Samples from 72 free-ranging Alaskan, 78 free-ranging southern, and (for pathogen exposure only) 41 debilitated southern sea otters in rehabilitation facilities were evaluated and compared to investigate regional differences. Serum chemistry and hematology values did not indicate a specific disease process as a cause for the declines. Statistically significant differences were found between free-ranging adult southern and Alaskan population mean serum levels of creatinine kinase, alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, calcium, cholesterol, creatinine, glucose, phosphorous, total bilirubin, blood urea nitrogen, and sodium. These were likely due to varying parasite loads, contaminant exposures, and physiologic or nutrition statuses. No free-ranging sea otters had signs of disease at capture, and prevalences of exposure to calicivirus, Brucella spp., and Leptospira spp. were low. The high prevalence (35%) of antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii in free-ranging southern sea otters, lack of antibodies to this parasite in Alaskan sea otters, and the pathogen's propensity to cause mortality in southern sea otters suggests that this parasite may be important to sea otter population dynamics in California but not in Alaska. The evidence for exposure to pathogens of public health importance (e.g., Leptospira spp., T. gondii) in the southern sea otter population, and the naïveté of both populations to other pathogens (e.g., morbillivirus and Coccidiodes immitis) may have important implications for their management and recovery.
University of California, Davis, Wildlife Health Center, Orcas Island Office, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, 1016 Deer Harbor Road, Eastsound, Washington 98245, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
The investigation of diseases of free-ranging river otters (Lontra canadensis) is a primary conservation priority for this species; however, very little is known about diseases of river otters that forage in marine environments. To identify and better understand pathogens that could be important to marine-foraging river otters, other wildlife species, domestic animals, and humans and to determine if proximity to human population could be a factor in disease exposure, serum samples from 55 free-ranging marine-foraging river otters were tested for antibodies to selected pathogens. Thirty-five animals were captured in Prince William Sound, Alaska (USA), an area of low human density, and 20 were captured in the San Juan Islands, Washington State (USA), an area characterized by higher human density. Of 40 river otters tested by indirect immunofluorescent antibody test, 17.5% were seropositive (titer > or =320) for Toxoplasma gondii. All positive animals came from Washington. Of 35 river otters tested for antibodies to Leptospira interrogans using the microscopic agglutination test, 10 of 20 (50%) from Washington were seropositive (titer > or =200). None of the 15 tested animals from Alaska were positive. Antibodies to Neospora caninum (n=40), Sarcocystis neurona (n=40), Brucella abortus (n=55), avian influenza (n=40), canine distemper virus (n=55), phocine distemper virus (n=55), dolphin morbillivirus (n=55), porpoise morbillivirus (n=55), and Aleutian disease parvovirus (n=46) were not detected. Identifying exposure to T. gondii and L. interrogans in otters from Washington State but not in otters from Alaska suggests that living proximal to higher human density and its associated agricultural activities, domestic animals, and rodent populations could enhance river otter exposure to these pathogens.
We sought to take a first step toward better integration of social concerns into empirical ecosystem service (ES) work. We did this by adapting cognitive anthropological techniques to study the Clayoquot Sound social-ecological system on the Pacific coast of Canada's Vancouver Island. We used freelisting and ranking exercises to elicit how locals perceive ESs and to determine locals' preferred food species. We analyzed these data with the freelist-analysis software package ANTHROPAC. We considered the results in light of an ongoing trophic cascade caused by the government reintroduction of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and their spread along the island's Pacific coast. We interviewed 67 local residents (n = 29 females, n = 38 males; n = 26 self-identified First Nation individuals, and n = 41 non-First Nation individuals) and 4 government managers responsible for conservation policy in the region. We found that the mental categories participants-including trained ecologists-used to think about ESs, did not match the standard academic ES typology. With reference to the latest ecological model projections for the region, we found that First Nations individuals and women were most likely to perceive the most immediate ES losses from the trophic cascade, with the most certainty. The inverse was found for men and non-First Nations individuals, generally. This suggests that 2 historically disadvantaged groups (i.e., First Nations and women) are poised to experience the immediate impacts of the government-initiated trophic cascade as yet another social injustice in a long line of perceived inequities. Left unaddressed, this could complicate efforts at multistakeholder ecosystem management in the region.
: Streptococcus phocae is a pathogen of marine mammals, although its pathogenicity remains poorly understood. Recovery of this bacterium from asymptomatic carriers suggests that it is an opportunistic pathogen. We investigated the role of S. phocae in naturally occurring disease and its significance as a pathogen based on postmortem investigations. Between 2007 and 2012, 1,696 whole carcasses, tissue samples, or both were submitted from the northeastern Pacific and Arctic Canada for diagnostic testing. Streptococcus phocae was cultured from phocids ( n=66), otariids ( n=12), harbor porpoises ( Phocoena phocoena; n=5), and sea otters ( Enhydra lutris; n=2). Pathologic manifestations of S. phocae-associated disease included localized, as well as systemic, inflammatory lesions with common findings of suppurative bronchopneumonia ( n=17) and bacteremia ( n=27). Lung lesions were frequently culture-positive for S. phocae, suggesting commensal colonization of the oropharynx with subsequent opportunistic infection of the respiratory tract during tissue injury, coinfection, immunosuppression, or other debilitating conditions. The presence of a positive spleen culture, and interpretations at necropsy and histopathology, were used to determine the presence of S. phocae bacteremia. Less frequent lesions that were culture positive for S. phocae included abscesses ( n=9), meningitis ( n=7), and cellulitis ( n=1). The majority of cases with S. phocae lesions featured pre-existing conditions that presumably contributed to some degree of debilitation or immunosuppression, including emaciation ( n=29), liver mercury accumulation ( n=29), trauma ( n=22), severe pulmonary or cardiovascular nematodiasis ( n=9), concurrent bacterial or viral infections ( n=8), or sarcocystosis ( n=6). These findings suggest that S. phocae could be characterized as an opportunistic pathogen, associated with debilitating conditions in stranded and rehabilitating marine mammals. Wildlife investigators can use these results to draw more definitive conclusions regarding positive S. phocae cultures during postmortem studies in marine mammals.