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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sometime it feels like it's still 1603

I missed this when it was first reported (I just heard about it on the radio), but a biologist working at the Grand Canyon recently died of the plague:
One day last October, Eric York lugged the carcass of an adult mountain lion from his truck and laid it carefully on a tarp on the floor of his garage.

The female mountain lion had a bloody nose, but her hide bore no other signs of trauma. York, a biologist at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, found the big cat lying motionless near the canyon's South Rim. He was determined to learn why she died.

Because the park lacks a forensics lab, he did the postmortem in his garage, in a village of about 2,000 park employees.

Epidemic experts can only speculate about what happened next. When York cut into the lion, he must have released a cloud of bacteria and breathed in. On Nov. 2, York was found dead, a 21st-century victim of plague, the disease that in the Middle Ages turned Europe into a vast mortuary. He was 37.
Besides mountain lions, another plague vector is the cute and furry squirrel, as is reported in this article from the NY Times with travel tips for visiting the Grand Canyon:
When accustomed to handouts, wild animals are nuisances at best, dangerous at worst. Deer will sometimes butt, kick, or gore people who have food; squirrels, which may carry rabies and even bubonic plague, won't hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them. And human food isn't good for wildlife. In recent years, the park has been forced to shoot deer that have become sickly from eating human food. So don't feed the critters. With your cooperation, they can live in the park in something akin to a natural state.

  • At 11/19/2008 05:16:00 PM, Blogger Henrik wrote…

    squirrels, which may carry rabies and even bubonic plague, won't hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them

    You're so making this up!


  • At 11/20/2008 03:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    i teach undergraduates who i think carry the disease.


  • At 11/21/2008 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Just blame it on the squirrels, Anonymous, blame it on the squirrels. And threaten to bite them if they don't shape up.


  • At 12/02/2008 04:05:00 PM, Blogger Renaissance Girl wrote…

    out here in the west, this is old news. my mom has been a plague alarmist re: wilderness rodents as long as i can remember. perhaps, for my mother, it has always been 1603. that may be how i ended up in this gig.


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