Anthrax outbreak confirmed in Wood Buffalo National Park

·2 min read
Bison lying in wallows as seen from a surveillance flight. Bison contract anthrax from dust spores inhaled while taking dust baths. (Submitted by A Erasmus, Parks Canada. - image credit)
Bison lying in wallows as seen from a surveillance flight. Bison contract anthrax from dust spores inhaled while taking dust baths. (Submitted by A Erasmus, Parks Canada. - image credit)

A suspected anthrax outbreak at Wood Buffalo National Park has been confirmed.

Samples sent to a lab early last week came back positive on Thursday said Parks Canada in a news release the same day, confirming the presence of anthrax in at least one dead bison at the park.

Bison will usually contract the disease from contaminated soil while wallowing in dust baths. Spores develop in hotter temperatures and fluctuating water levels. Cooler temperatures will kill the spores and slow the outbreak.

Although extremely rare, humans can get anthrax from contact with infected bison.

Resource Conservation staff at the park are still conducting routine surveillance flights to identify new mortalities and monitor the extent of the outbreak, the release says.

So far, the carcasses found have been in remote areas of the park, and Parks Canada doesn't see any risk to the public.

An Incident Management Team with parks has been sent to help with the disposal of carcasses at Sweetgrass Station, due to their proximity to facilities there.

More dead bison were spotted in the "Lake One, Trident Creek/Trident Meadows, Peace Point west junction, and Flat grass areas of the park," the release states.

There's been 59 mortalities confirmed and all are suspected to be caused by anthrax.

"Parks Canada is working closely with relevant provincial, territorial and federal organizations, Indigenous governments, local communities, and visitors to ensure the health and safety of the public and park staff are protected," the release reads.

It says to be safe, there are area closures are in place for the Sweetgrass, Trident Creek/Meadows, and Peace Point West Junction areas.

Parks Canada asks Fort Smith residents to avoid the Wood Buffalo National Park fire base, which is next to the Fort Smith airport, as Parks Canada's Incident Management Team works to manage the situation.

Incident personnel are currently staging operations out of Moose Island (Carlson's Landing) in Wood Buffalo National Park, with helicopters active in both areas. People are also asked to avoid these areas.

Anyone who comes across a dead animal in the park should not touch it, and instead, leave the area immediately and report the location to the Wood Buffalo National Park duty officer at (867) 872-0404.

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