What kinds of diseases afflict the black bear?

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Wildlife diseases do not appear to play a major role in morbidity and mortality of black bear populations. However, routine surveillance is lacking. Bears in Idaho showed antibodies for tularemia (19%), Q-fever (6%), brucellosis (5%), leptospirosis (1%), and other pathogens but none showed serious clinical signs of the diseases. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bears showed antibodies for Leptospira sp. (22%), but tested negative for brucellosis and canine distemper. Bears sometimes show evidence of periodontal disease and dental caries ("cavities"). Black bears rarely contract rabies. Large amounts of virus are necessary to infect the animal and infected individuals show little or no virus in their saliva. Only 10 rabid bears were reported in North America through 1983. Since the onset of raccoon-strain rabies in the Northeast, 1 rabid bear has been reported in New York and none in Massachusetts. Captive or pet bears may be a greater risk. In Iowa, a captive cub at a ... more
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