January 31, 2023

Results of Echinococcus Sampling Project

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*Editor’s Note* – The below is a response that was posted by Tim Kemery, Field Coordinator Custer County WPCA (Western Predator Control Association), to an individual in Idaho who claimed that Echinococcus granulosus was not a problem in Idaho. It is republished here with permission from the author.

Dear ____________,

In response to your inquiry last week of our Echinococcus Sampling Project in Central Idaho, permit me to give you a brief Overview of the Project, its Intent, and Results of the Sampling Project so far.

Project Overview: In 2011 Custer County Idaho thru the efforts of its Commissioners, delegated the responsibility of collecting Fecal and Organ samples from multiple species of local Wildlife, to a Team of County residents trained in Sampling Protocols. These samples were, and are then sent to Colorado State University for analysis.

Species of Wildlife being sampled include Big Horn Sheep, Moose, Elk, Deer, Wolves, Coyotes, Fox,
Pine Marten, Raccoon, and Skunk. Domestic ungulates are being closely monitored by the Team’s Medical Officer Dr. Rod Evans but samples from these species have not been sent for analysis as of this time.

Project Intent: Responding to a lack of Data pertaining to the spread of Hydatid Disease by introduced Canadian Grey Wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, Custer County Commissioners intend to determine what percentage of the introduced Wolves are infected by the Echinoccocus granulosus (E.g.) tapeworm, and to what level the other Wildlife species have been infected.

As Analysis Data from the Colorado State Lab is being received by the Team, County and State Officials as well as Federal Agencies are being briefed on the results. This liaison between the Sampling Project and Local Agencies is clarifying the need for regulatory mechanisms to be rapidly implemented to halt the spread of E.g on our Landscapes.

Implemented Regulations must include elimination of E.g sources as well as a Regimen of Safety Precautions that are available to the Public. The E.g Tapeworm Cycle must be understood by health officials if the contamination of our soil and water by this destructive organism is to be stopped.

Project Results: One encouraging result in the otherwise bleak outcome of this Project has been the ability of Custer County to take advantage of an ongoing Echinococcus Genotype Study taking place at Colorado State University. The Echinococcus Genotype Study is being headed by Lora R. Ballweber and co-authored by our Medical Officer Dr. Rod Evans.

As of this time no sample sent to Colorado State for analysis has shown any reference to the Echinococcus G1-G3 Sheep Strain. All samples from introduced Canadian Grey Wolves, Elk, Big Horn Sheep, and Deer have been the G8 and G10 Strains.

One very significant issue that has been highlighted by this Sampling Project has been the Invasive Origins of the G8/G10 Strains of Echinococcus. Both Strains are Eurasian and are not Native to our Western States.

Thanks to the sophistication the Genotype Study we can track our Idaho Echinococcus samples right back to the source wolves in Canada. This brings a much greater amount of clarity to several issues which we will soon be dealing with when it must be decided where funding sources for the cleanup will come from.

A tragic result of our sampling effort has been to see the aggressiveness of this Echinococcus Cervid Strain as it moves into our elk and deer herds. Our Moose populations which are already experiencing high wolf-predation mortality are particularly vulnerable to the E.g tapeworm and many infected animals are being found.

All Canadian Wolf samples have been positive with most (almost all) wolves heavily infested with both Taenia (Moose Measles) tapeworms and E.g G8/G10 tapeworms.

I am sorry __________ to not have an encouraging word for you but this is what science is all about, how do we take the Truth (Science), when we do not like the Prognosis and make management decisions?

Tim Kemery, Field Coordinator Custer County WPCA