December 10, 2019

Hydatid Cysts in Elk and Unexplained Worms

The information for this article came to me from various sources of emails. In an email sent to Idaho for Wildlife, pictures of hydatid cysts infecting a recently harvested elk and a brief story are shared.

“Greeting Steve, my name is XXXXX XXXXX[Feb. 3, 2014 – name was removed per request of the person.]. I live in Cascade, Idaho. I saw the flyer on the hytadid elk disease on a flyer at a store in Donnelly, Idaho.

The attached pics are from a cow elk my wife shot last week a few miles north of Donnelly in Valley County. Lesions look the same. The entire elk was infested with tiny white worms. Every part of it. They were entirely thoughout all the meat. If you look in the pics closely the worms are kinda straight but wiggly shaped. I had a IDFG Officer inspect it. He got on the phone with the biologists at headquarters in Caldwell and they requested a sample and condemned the elk. They requested I bury it which I did. I looked over your groups website and thought I should forward this to you. Call me if you would like to discuss.”

XXXXX XXXXXX[Feb. 3, 2014, Name was removed per request of the person.]

All photos can be enlarged to full size for more precise viewing. Just click on the image and then click again on the following page.





The following is information sent to me by Lynn Stuter pertaining to the photos above.

“Like many of you, I received the following e-mail,

The attached pics are from a cow elk my wife shot last week a few miles north of Donnelly in Valley County. Lesions look the same. The entire elk was infested with tiny white worms. Every part of it. They were entirely thoughout all the meat. If you look in the pics closely the worms are kinda straight but wiggly shaped. I had a IDFG Officer inspect it. He got on the phone with the biologists at headquarters in Caldwell and they requested a sample and condemned the elk. They requested I bury it which I did. I looked over your groups website and thought I should forward this to you. Call me if you would like to discuss.

For those who don’t have ready access to a map, Donnelly is a ways south of McCall in Idaho. In looking at the attached pictures, at least some of the cysts, in the lungs, appear to be Hydatid cysts, ungulates being the intermediate host to the Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm.

I sent the pictures to Dr Valerius Geist. In part he responded, “please spread the word to open suspicious cysts, cut it with your knife, to expose the hydatid sand.” The “Hydatid sand” Dr Geist speaks of is the tapeworm heads that look like sand in the fluid that exists inside the cyst. If the cyst is full of tapeworm heads, you know the animal had Hydatid.

While some may fear contracting Hydatid by doing this, know that the tapeworm heads must be ingested by a canine (wolf, coyote, dog) to become adult tapeworms capable of producing eggs. The tapeworm heads are not a threat to humans, only the eggs of the Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm that causes Hydatid are a threat to humans. If ingested by a human, the eggs hatch in the intestines, burrow through the intestinal wall, enter the vascular system, and usually travel to the liver or lungs, where Hydatid cysts are formed.

Of course, if gutting an infected animal at the residence, be sure to secure and remove the guts (offal) so the family dog does not get into them, ingest the tapeworm heads, and become infected with the Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm, thereby spreading the eggs in its feces around and in the home, eggs that are a threat to humans and especially to small children who play in the grass and on the floor in the home.

The worms in the meat of this elk would not be Echinococcus granulosus as the tapeworm heads, found in the Hydatid cyst, must be ingested by a canine (wolf, coyote, dog) to develop into mature tapeworms. If a cyst is ruptured, inside the host animal, the result is most often anaphylactic shock followed by death. This is also true with humans. There is always an exception to the rule, however. If a cyst is ruptured, and the host does not go into anaphylactic shock and die, the tapeworm heads do not infect the meat and become mature tapeworms; the tapeworm heads that survive form new cysts inside the host.

What the worms are, in the meat of this elk, is yet to be determined.”


Human Hydatid Disease

*Editor’s Note* – This article first appeared in the Bethel Citizen.

Open Air
With Tom Remington

Human Hydatid Disease

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) had issued a warning to Maine residents on their website about moose lungworm, as they called it. Unfortunately the information was incomplete and misleading. I have urged the department to do further research in order that better information be made available to educate the public. As of this writing, it appears that information has been removed from the website. The reason is unknown to me.

The result of a three-year study by MDIFW, in conjunction with the University of Maine, has revealed the presence of hydatid cysts in moose at locations in Aroostook County. It is not irresponsible to conclude that if cysts were found there, if not present in deer and moose throughout the entire state now, they soon will be.

The issue of human hydatid disease is complex, however I would like to talk only of the greatest threat to humans in contracting this disease.

Incorrectly, MDIFW, stated that hunters and trappers should wear rubber gloves and be cautious when handling game. While perhaps good advice for any hunter or trapper, this is not where the real threat comes from. It comes from people’s free-roaming dogs and outdoor people who come in contact with worm infested feces of wild canines, i.e. wolves, coyotes, foxes, etc.

Wild canines are the primary host of the tiny worm called echinococcus granulosus. Tiny spores from infected canines can be found in their feces. Should any of these spores be ingested by humans, they run the risk of contracting a disease that is very difficult to diagnose, presents few symptoms and may not show up for several years.

Wild canines leave their “calling card” in very conspicuous places, including often in your front yard. If your dog is allowed to be outside unattended, as dogs naturally tend to do, they eat and/or roll in such feces. If they do this, those tiny spores are now on and around the dogs mouth and/or embedded into the fur, if they have chosen to roll in it.

Use your imagination now as to what can and does happen when your pet reenters the house, especially with children around – licking faces, rolling on floors, sleeping on furniture and beds, depositing tiny eggs where they go waiting for a human to unintentionally ingest them (swallow or inhale into lungs).

In the outdoors, humans stepping in and/or choosing to “examine” the content of canine feces, are running the risk of making airborne the tiny spores and ingesting them. These eggs are viable in water and tremendous temperature ranges.

Hydatid cysts in humans can form in lungs, liver and brain. A rupture of a cyst inside a human body can be fatal.

The most important thing is to learn the truth about this disease in order that we all can do as much as we can to reduce the chances of contracting the disease. If you live in places known to have infected wild canines, do not allow your dogs to run free and then come into the house. If you insist that they run free, for your own protection provide accommodations for your dog to remain outside. Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated. Remember, a vaccination for your pet will help prevent them from becoming sick from the worms but as I described above, them eating and rolling and bringing the eggs inside with them is not affected by their vaccine.

In the wild, do not tamper with wild feces and refrain from drinking from unknown water sources.

Always thoroughly wash hands.

For more information about this disease, please visit my website and click on the “wildlife diseases” link near the top of the page.


A Warning for Hunters, Trappers and all Outdoor Enthusiasts


*Editor’s Note* – This article first appeared in the Bethel Citizen

Open Air
with Tom Remington
A Warning for Hunters, Trappers and all Outdoor Enthusiasts

Earlier in this news publication I shared an article about a potentially dangerous tapeworm that is being spread across the landscape by wild carnivores. In Maine it is mostly being done by the state’s version of wolf/coyote hybrid.

I realize Maine is in the midst or end of bear and moose hunting seasons, but trapping season is about to gear up, deer hunting season is on the doorstep and many people are taking to the fields and streams to peep at some leaves and get in some late summer and early fall hikes. This is perhaps the busiest time for people to be outside and in the forests and fields.

I would like to take a moment to alert readers to precautions they can take that will lesson any chances of contracting Hydatid disease, the result of infections perpetuated by Echinococcus granulosus (E.g.) tapeworm eggs. It is these eggs found in the feces of wild canines that offers the greatest threat to humans in the outdoors. Perhaps I can put it in a perspective that’s more easily understood.

It has been estimated that during a 15-year period, the Greater Yellowstone area has probably been blessed with some 2.8 million wolf droppings (1,500-2,000 wolves). Add to that coyotes and other canines and the numbers skyrocket. The short of it is, that in areas where E.g. exists, the landscape is polluted with egg-infested wild canine droppings. Keep this in mind. While unofficial, some estimates put wolf/coyote populations in Maine between 20,000 and 30,000.

Here are my suggestions, and please visit and seek the menu near the top, “Wildlife Diseases” for more information.

These suggestions are mostly geared to hunters and trappers but apply the guidelines to your outdoor activity.

1. Never disturb wolf/coyote droppings. The E.g. eggs are tiny spores that cling and can become air-born if disturbed. They are viable in heat and cold as well as in water.
2. Handling game should be done with caution. Assume Hydatid cysts are present in all game and on the landscape. Use rubber gloves. Avoid any contact with mouth or eyes and open cuts. Although it is highly unlikely infections can be transmitted to humans by rupturing a cyst, it is possible. Therefore, try to avoid rupturing any cysts. Bear in mind some rupturing may have occurred from gun shot or trauma.
3. Make sure to properly cook any meat before consumption. Again the odds of ingesting fluid from a ruptured cyst are slim, heat will kill it.
4. Trappers must exercise extreme caution when handling coyotes/foxes/canines. Assume eggs persist on all parts of the animal’s fur and mouth/tongue.
5. Wash and sanitize outdoor clothing. Eggs can cling to shoes, boots, clothing, hands, hair, traps, etc.
6. If outdoors with dog, wash dog as soon as possible. You don’t know everything your dog has been into while outside. I suggest leaving the dog outdoors.
7. Realize that just a walk in the woods, the fields and forests, they are contaminated with millions of piles of scat. This gets picked up on the feet of animals and humans, gets spread around and is brought home on boots, pants, etc. Birds, flies, butterflies can spread the eggs.

Remember the biggest threat comes from getting the E.g. eggs into your mouth or lungs through breathing. Assume that in the outdoors, the eggs may be everywhere and on anything. Proceed accordingly.

While historically Hydatid disease has not been known to be a problem in the United States, it is in parts of the world where people have dealt with wolves and coyotes for centuries. In Romania, medical reports show that from 1979-1988, 8,557 people contracted Hydatid disease: 516 died.

Please use caution and take steps to reduce threats of infection.

You can find more information on this subject and many others dealing with hunting, fishing, trapping and the outdoors at


Spotlight on Nasty Parasites: Echinococcus granulosus

Did you know that some dogs might have a tapeworm in their small intestine that can cause the development of large cysts in people’s livers, lungs, and brains? This is not very common in the United States currently, though there are cases reported periodically (2), but in some areas of the world it is a huge problem. An infection that can spread from animals to humans or vice-versa is called a zoonotic infection.<<<Read the Rest>>>


Could Widespread Tapeworm Infestation Destroy Life In The Northern Rockies?

Published in 1963, Farley Mowat’s book, “Never Cry Wolf”, probably did more than anything written before or since to spread and perpetuate the misconception that wolves only kill the old, the sick, and the weak – making herds healthier. While published as a true story, the book has been proven to be pure fiction, in which the author wrote himself into the lead role, as a research scientist sent alone into Canada’s wild north to determine if wolf predation was the cause for the dramatic loss of hundreds of thousands of caribou.

In reality, he was the junior member of a research team, which indeed did come to the conclusion that the herds were being decimated by wolves. However, in his fictitious story, Mowat reached a completely different finding. He blamed the loss of the great herds to the spread of diseases and parasites – and there is likely some truth to that. What he failed to share was the origin of all those cysts found on the internal organs of the caribou he claimed to have dissected. <<<Read the Rest>>>


“Time to Cry Wolf” and Predator Disease Warnings


The other day I was sent an article and the link to that article found at “Western Cowman.” The article, “Time to Cry Wolf – Damaging Impacts of Predator Diseases on Wildlife, Livestock and Humans.”, was written by Heather Smith Thomas. It contains valuable information and is a good piece that helps to sum up the difficulties being realized now here in the United States about diseases carried by and perpetuated by wild canines, i.e. mostly coyotes and wolves. I have also provided on this website, under “Wildlife Diseases”, both Echinococcus granulosus and Neospora Caninum, a link to this article.

I read the article and then reread the article. I left it for a day or two and then reread it a third time and studied it a bit closer. In it I discovered some information that has come up before and has been the cause of a bit of controversy and confusion. It shouldn’t be. As part of my research into this, I contacted Dr. Delane Kritsky, a parasitologist at Idaho State University. I sent him the article and highlighted the part that bothered me. Here is that part:

Check the vital organs of big game, looking closely for small white or reddish balloon-shapes that might be cysts. If there are any, be careful not to puncture them. The fluid from one of these cysts can be dangerous, especially if the gunshot wound penetrated an infected organ. Ingestion of Hydatid cyst fluid can cause development of these cysts in humans.(emboldening added as I did in the copy I sent to Dr. Kritsky.)

Dr. Kritsky’s response to this was: “Again, I don’t know of any reports of persons becoming infected from ingesting or handling cysts (or their contents).”

I had previously, in February of 2013, sent Dr. Kritsky a copy of a report I had received from Clay Dethlefson of the Western Predator Control Association. That report is made available on this website.

In that report, Dethlefson states:

Fact–Humans get secondary Hydatid Cyst from internally located bursting and/or seeping Cysts.

Too, in the case of humans (hunters, butchers, etc.) it is not only feasible but it is truly possible for people to get Hydatid Cysts from an ungulate’s exposed Hydatid Cysts. This occurs when Hydatid Sand from a Cyst that has burst and/or is seeping comes into contacted with a human’s transmission means, and thereafter, this Hydatid Cyst Fluid (with viable Protoscolices) enters external body orifices. Transmission by hands or by having Sand surge or gush in some other manner into external orifices of the body are such means; hence, Cysts do not occur just from direct involvement with E.g. Eggs.

At that time Dr. Kritsky responded that the information was true that this can happen but emphasized that, “there is no danger in becoming infected just by handling (or eating) a cyst that might have been present in a harvested animal.”

As a confirmation, is the reason I once again contacted Dr. Kritsky about any dangers. The object here is not to dispute anyone’s claims or find fault with reports and statements. The goal is to pass on to the many hunters, trappers, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts as much fact about disease dangers as can be assessed.

As part of my email to Dr. Kritsky, I asked a couple more questions. Here are those questions and Dr. Kritsky’s answers are within quotes.

Question One: How dangerous is rupturing a cyst in a deer, moose or elk to humans?
Answer: “I wouldn’t hesitate to handle a cyst (ruptured or not).”

Question Two: As far as eating the meat, cooking should take care of any threats, shouldn’t it?
Answer: “Two cysts, adults and eggs, are easily killed with heat.”

It appears that we are dealing with possibilities and probabilities. According to both of these sources, Dethlefson and Kritsky, it is possible that a ruptured hydatid cyst found in a human and a wild ungulate (deer, moose, elk, etc.) can result in secondary hydatid cysts occurring. However it appears as though the probability is quite low. The individual must weigh the risks based on factual information.

In this regard I queried Dr. Kritsky about taking precautions. His answer was, “I suppose it doesn’t hurt to take precautions–after all, nothing is definitively correct in science–we are always disproving ideas(and never prove them).

It has always been my content that outdoor sportsmen, before they can make responsible decisions on what risks they are willing to take, have to have the facts and understand them in order to do that. While this discussion has been mostly about the threat of contracting Hydatid disease from a ruptured, exciting cyst, sportsmen need to understand that the greatest danger comes from the risk of ingesting the tiny eggs found in canine feces, a product that dots the landscape by the millions, perhaps billions.

There are warnings published in the “Time to Cry Wolf” article and the precautions all of us should take when living in and being in the outdoors where Echinococcus granulosus exists. For your own safety, I recommend following those recommendations.


Study Shows E.G. Eggs That Cause Human Hydatidosis Readily Found in E.G. Endemic Soil


Institute of Parasitology, University of Zu?rich, Zu?rich, Switzerland; Institute of Zoology, Kazakh Academy of Sciences, Academogorodok, Almaty, Kazakhstan


Cystic echinococcosis is a re-emerging disease in central Asia. A total of 120 soil samples taken from 30
gardens of rural homesteads in southern Kazakhstan were analyzed for the presence of taeniid eggs using a concentration technique. Of these, 21 (17.5%) were shown to be contaminated with taeniid eggs. These isolated taeniid eggs were further analyzed using a polymerase chain reaction specific for the G1 (sheep) strain of the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus, and five samples were shown to be positive. This study demonstrates the widespread contamination of the environment with E. granulosus eggs in an Echinococcus
-endemic area and thus the potential for indirect transmission of E. granulosus to humans from such sources.

<<<


Hydatid Disease: Man Has Gotten This Disease Since the Domestication of Dogs

Recently, Prof. Dr. P. R. Torgerson, PhD, VetMB, DipECVPH, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology Vetsuisse Faculty, published an article titled, “Frequency Distributions of Helminths of Wolves in Kazakhstan.”

The Summary reads as follows:

Summary of “Frequency distributions of helminths of wolves in Kazakhstan.”

Between 2001 and 2008 a total of 41 wolves (Canis lupus) were necropsied in southern Kazakhstan and their intestinal parasite fauna evaluated. Of these animals 8 (19.5%) were infected with Echinococcus granulosus, 15 (36%) with Taenia spp, 13 (31.7%) with Dypilidium caninum, 5 (12.2%) with Mesocestoides lineatus, 15 (36.6%) with Toxocara canis, 16 (39%) with Toxascaris leonina, 8 (19.5%) with Trichuris vulpis, 9 (22%) with Macracanthorhynchus catulinus and 1 (2.4%) with Moniliformis moniliformis. All parasites had an aggregated distribution which followed a zero inflated or hurdle model. Although a small convenience sample of wolves, the results indicate a high prevalence of infection with E. granulosus. The mean abundance (1275 E. granulosus per wolf) was high with individual infected wolves carrying intensities of several thousand parasites. As wolves are common in Kazakhstan they may act as an important host in the transmission of this zoonotic parasite. The wolves were sampled from an area of Kazakhstan where there is a high prevalence of hydatid cysts in livestock and where echinococcosis has been observed in wild ungulates.


Kazakh State Veterinary Research Institute, Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Veterinary parasitology
ISSN: 1873-2550
Pages: 348-51

PubMed Source:

Will Graves, author of “Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages” and co-author of a new book soon to be released about wolves in the United States, having read Dr. Torgerson’s article, sent him an email seeking more information.

He wrote:

I am not a biologist but would like to exchange ideas with you about wolves. I am interested in Echinococcus granulosus and Neospora caninum.

Dr. Togerson replied to Will Graves, Torgerson says:

Dear Mr Graves
Thank you for your interest in our article. However I know little about wolves, other than there are lots of them in Kazakhstan. The primary interest was really in the parasites – especially Echinococcus granulosus. E. granulosus is a very serious zoonosis and in rural areas of Kazakhstan infects about 20% of dogs. It then transmits to people through close contact with dogs causing hydatid disease which is a large cystic lesion in your liver of lungs. The parasite naturally circulates between sheep and dogs. However the parasite almost certainly originated in wild life, probably circulating between wolves and wild ungulates. Man has been getting this disease ever since dogs were domesticated. I work with several scientists in Kazakhstan and the material for the manuscript was supplied by local hunters. In many areas wolves are considered a pest and a danger to livestock, especially as there are so many in Kazakhstan. (emboldening added)

Scientists that have knowledge of Echinococcus granulosus, i.e. Dr. Delane Kritsky, Dr. Valerius Geist, among others, have been trying to educate the public about where the real risk to humans comes from contracting human hydatid disease. Here we have Dr. Torgerson, in a region of the world where historically wolves have always been present, telling us that, “Man has been getting this disease ever since dogs were domesticated.”

The threat comes from free ranging dogs in rural settings that come in contact with the E.G. eggs through multiple sources. The dogs bring those eggs home with them running the risk of humans ingesting the tiny eggs.

But there exist some alarming figures that need to be shared. Dr. Torgerson says that of the 41 wolves he tested, 19.5%, or 8 of the wolves, tested positive for Echinococcus granulosus. As a result, Dr. Torgerson says that about 20% of domestic dogs become infected. Those numbers are startling enough. However, consider these numbers from Idaho.

According to Steve Alder of Idaho for Wildlife, in a recent email sent out, nearly 100% of recent necropsied wolves were infected with Echinococcus granulosus. If nearly 20% of infected wolf populations in Kazakhstan translates into about 20% of infected domestic dogs, what does this mean for Idaho?

This is a difficult thing to determine as certainly we don’t know the similarities in geography and population demographics of wolves and humans between Idaho and Kazakhstan. Nor do we know what kind of veterinary care exists between the two populations.

It is often said in this country that Echinococcus granulosus has never been a problem. That may be true but does the United States, particularly the lower 48 states, where denser human populations are exposed to wolf populations, have any real history of wolves and humans sharing the landscape?

This is why information that comes to us from areas around the world where that history is long can be helpful to us…..if only we would listen closely and learn. Dr. Torgerson says that hydatid disease in humans has existed since the domestication of dogs and yet people in this country refuse to except that fact, even though there now are thousands of wolves roaming the forests in parts of this nation.

The sooner doctors, scientists and canine lovers recognize this disease, along with many others carried by the wolf, the sooner we can all learn how best to protect ourselves, our children, pets and livestock. What’s wrong with that?


Human Hydatid Disease: A Warning to Trappers and Hunters

By Dave Miller

The disease is the result of an infection caused by tapeworms of the family Taenidae. Of importance, is that the dormancy of this can be up to 50 years. It was previously most common in South & Central America, Middle East, China, and Western North America.

It has now arrived in the Northeast.

This is of equal importance to trappers and hunters alike in Maine and the rest of the Northeast.
Although, some of us in the trapping community have been aware of the disease for a number of years and I was planning to write an article on it eventually, I have moved up its importance. This is based on the fact that IF&W has done research on it and just made the fact that is here public. Some of us assumed it would get here in the near future, but was not aware it had already actually arrived. IF&W presented it publically during Lee Kantar’s recent February presentation of his annual report on moose and deer to the legislature’s IFW Committee. I think trappers along with hunters should have been made aware of it immediately upon its discovery in Maine, considering our possible expose to it.

There are three different forms of echinococcosis found in humans, each of which is caused by the larval stages of different species of the tape worm genus Echinococcus. They are cyctic echinococcosis (the most common), alveolar echinococcosis and the third is polycystic echinococcosis. We are concerned with the first one here caused by echinococcus granulsus.

The first article I have in reference to the disease is part of an Outdoorsman article published about 40 years ago. At that time most readers of the Outdoorsman were from Northwestern Canada and Alaska where the cysts were present in moose and caribou. That article included statistics on the number of reported human deaths resulting from the cysts over a 50 year period. It also addressed the decline in deaths, once outdoorsmen learned what precautions were needed to prevent humans from infection.

It has been reported that in Alaska alone, over 300 cases have been reported in humans since 1950 as a result of canines (primarily wolves) contaminating the landscape with billions of the worm eggs in their scat (feces). The invisible eggs are ingested by wild and domestic animals, and sometimes by humans. It is made airborne by kicking the scat or picking it up to see what the animal has been eating. It can also be spread by wind over large areas. The eggs are very hardy and survive through extreme temperatures and weather for very long periods. The egg hatches in the digestive system of the intermediate host, producing larva.

Once ingested this larvae develops from the egg stage, penetrates the intestinal walls, and moves into the capillary beds (liver, lungs & brain) where they develop into large cysts full of tiny tapeworm heads. It settles there and turns into a bladder-like structure called a hydatid cyst. The cysts eventually kill the infected animals (humans) unless diagnosed and removed surgically. After the death of the intermediate host, its body (animals) is consumed by carnivores suitable as its final host. In their intestines, the protoscolices (the inner layer of the cyst wall that buds and protrudes into the fluid sac) turns inside out, attach and give rise to adult tapeworms, completing its life cycle.

It is important that outdoorsmen (hunters & trappers in particular) know not to kick or touch the scat of canids. Also, the wearing of rubber gloves when field dressing game and/or while fur handling is of upmost importance to prevent infection from the blood and/or internal organs. It must be noted that the tapeworm affects many other mammals from your dog and horse to rodents. For those collecting and using the anis glands for scent making – be forewarned of the direct contact with the scat.

The announcement of a tiny tape worm who’s name most of us can’t pronounce, that had never been reported south of the U.S. and Canadian border is now infecting elk, deer, moose, and even humans is being rapidly spread cross thousands of square miles. It is believed this has resulted from the introduction of the Gray Wolf to our western mountains. The tape worm has been reported in elk, deer, and mountain goats over large areas out west.

Even Sweden and Finland have reported the westerly spread of the disease into their moose herds from from Russian wolves. The Russian wolf population is currently increasing dramatically to the point they are hiring hunters/trappers to reduce the wolf population.

There were plenty of warnings about the spread of this disease by experts. Despite this, various FWS and State Wildlife Departments ignored their warnings. A certain FWS biologist (I have a document that names him – but I won’t here) who was stationed in Alaska and was knowledgeable about the disease was assigned to head up the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Team. He chose not to address or evaluate the impact of wolf recovery on diseases and parasites in the 1993 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) provided to the public.

This resulted in alarming a number of experts on pathogens and parasites. One individual (Will Graves) informed the FWS biologist with information including that in Russia wolves carried 50 types of worms & parasites, including Echinococcosis and others with various degrees of danger to both animals and humans. In Graves written testimony in 1993 to the FWS biologist he also cited the results of a 10 year Russia study in which a failure to kill most wolves by each spring resulted in up to 100% parasite infection rate of moose and wild boar with an infection incident of up to 30-40 per animal. Graves’s letter stated that despite the existence of foxes, raccoons and domestic dogs; wolves were always the basic/primary source of parasite infections in the moose and wild boar. He emphasized the toll it could take on domestic livestock, and along with other expert respondents, requested a detailed study on the potential impact wolves would have in regard to carrying, harboring and spreading disease.

In the final 414 page Gray Wolf EIS (FEIS) dated April 14, 1994 only one third of a page addressed Disease and Parasites to & from Wolves (chapter 5 page 55). It stated that “Most respondents who commented on this issue expressed concern about diseases and parasites introduced wolves could transfer to other animals in recovery areas”. Several other statements by the FWS biologist are as simplistic and ignored specific concerns. The FWS implied that Graves “facts” are only his opinion.

Several “other previously unrecognized parasites” in the states where wolves have been introduced have also been found. So our coyotes may well be bringing in new diseases into Maine and the Northeast region.


Cysts found in the lungs of an elk


Confirmed: Maine Moose Carry Echinococcus Granulosus Tapeworm

In a report that came out last week from meetings within the Maine Legislative Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Lee Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) head moose and deer biologist, was quoted as saying they had discovered the presence of a new “lung tapeworm” in moose examined in parts of northeastern Maine. The name of the tapeworm was not revealed at that time but I can confirm from an email I just received that this tapeworm is echinococcus granulosus. I can also report that this is not a good thing but nothing we should panic about – just get educated about.

Below is a press release made available by the MDIFW about the finding and precautions. I will follow this up with better and more details of the precautions that you should be taking to not contract, what in humans, becomes hydatid disease.

First the MDIFW press release:

Echinococcus granulosus in Maine Moose

Over the last three years Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been collaborating with the University of Maine Animal Health Lab in examining the presence of lungworms (Dictyocaulus spp.) in moose. Lungworms have been noted in moose that have been found dead in late winter with heavy winter tick loads and the combination of both parasites has been implicated as a cause of calf mortality.

This past fall, students once again increased sampling intensity of moose lungs from harvested animals. This led to the University of Maine-Animal Health Lab, finding Echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts in some moose lungs. EG is a very small tapeworm that has a two part lifecycle; one in canids (coyotes/foxes/domestic dogs) and the second in moose. There are several known genotypes of this tapeworm, and genetic testing of the Maine tapeworms found that this EG is the northern, or least pathogenic, form. Although Echinococcus granulosus can infect humans, the form that is known to do so most often is the sheep-dog genotype. Finding the northern, wild-type form of EG in moose in Maine suggests that likely wild canids in Maine are infected and that possibly domestic dogs are infected as well, and that fact may allow for human exposure to this parasite. It is also very likely that we have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems having not actively looked for them prior to this work.

The adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the canid host, while the larval form lives in the lungs or liver of an infected moose. Humans may become infected by ingesting eggs of the parasite picked up by contact with canid feces.

In conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and University of Maine Animal Health Lab/Cooperative Extension, the Department recommends that people encountering dead wild animals be cautious. We offer the following suggestions including wearing rubber or latex gloves when field dressing game and thoroughly cooking any wild game meat that will be consumed. In addition we recommend protecting your pets through regular veterinarian visits and avoiding contact with dead wild animals. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website has additional recommendations on its website The Department would reiterate that very likely we have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems.

Maine people need to be educated about this potential health hazard. I am writing from several years experience in researching and writing about this disease. In educating people, it should not be taken as some kind of attack against coyotes/wolves, foxes, etc. It’s a nasty disease that can be spread quickly and easily but there are many things each of us can do to reduce the risks of infection. Deny there is danger is ignorant.

I will not spend a great deal of time now about this process but I would like to point out a few things that did not get covered in depth in this press release. But first, I have on this website an extensive amount of information about this tapeworm and hydatid disease. Please find that by clicking on the link at the top of the page under Wildlife Diseases and then click on E.G./Hydatid Disease.

The press release states this tapeworm was found in the lungs of moose. It must be explained that all ungulates, i.e. moose, deer, elk, etc. are common secondary hosts of the tapeworm. The results show up in large cysts found in many of these ungulate organs – lungs, liver, brain. While not deadly to the animal, it does restrict their breathing ability when amassed in the lungs and thus limits their ability to escape predators.

In humans, a contraction of the disease is known as hydatid disease and these cysts also can form in lungs, liver, brain, etc. It is not normally looked for by physicians and is difficult to diagnose. There are human cases of hydatid disease in this country. I have the documentation of that. Because of the difficulty in detection combined with lack of symptoms, a real danger becomes possible when a blow to the abdomen and a rupturing of these cysts resulting sometimes in Anaphylactic Shock and death. Therefore it is important to know what to do to reduce your chances of contracting this disease. Treatment is expensive and complicated.

There are many, many ways humans can contract this disease but let me first talk about the most serious one – from your family pets, i.e. dogs. In the press release it states that, “Humans may become infected by ingesting eggs of the parasite picked up by contact with canid feces.” More on the “ingestion” in another article.

If your dog free ranges or roams outside and even worse runs into pastures or the woods, you should stop allowing this immediately. Dogs are notorious for eating and rolling in dead carcasses. Eating a dead animal with the worms will allow your dog to get the worms. Make sure your pets are properly cared for and if you live in and near areas known to have echinococcus granulosus infected wild animals, let your vet know. However, the dog can easily bring these worms/parasites home to you and your children.

They roll in it and the parasites stick to their fur. They eat it and it gets in and around the mouth. The dog comes home and licks or plays with you or the kids and you unknowingly can ingest the parasite. The dog can leave them in carpets, rugs, furniture, bedding, etc. and the parasites remain viable for ridiculously long periods of time.

Coyotes/wolves often visit your home, even in town, during the nighttime hours and/or while you are away. Upon their visit, most often they will deposit a calling sign (feces) in your yard. If you or the children are outside, you can step in it and your dog being outside might decide to eat it or roll in it and the threat to you and your family is just as real.

I will cover more on this at a later time and please do not disregard the facts about this. There is nothing to necessarily be frightened about but precautions are a must. Some people will take offense at any indication on any degree of danger in this and dispute facts. They are there. My website contains pages of historical data from around the world on this disease. Please take note and be advised.

The press release stated that, “very likely we have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems.” I cannot concur with that statement nor will several parasitologist and wildlife experts I confer with on this disease. We may have lived with this tapeworm in such small amounts that to our knowledge we have not been affected. However, it must be noted that with a population of coyotes and wolves, expanding now in seemingly every landscape in this country, the odds of having problems has grown immensely. Infected coyotes/wolves can and do cover vast expanses of land and with it will spread this disease.