Avian influenza, rabies, mad cow disease, and even chronic wasting disease are animal diseases that make the headlines because of the human-health link and the ease in which they spread among animals, regions, and even countries. Lesser known are the nongame wildlife diseases. Although an alert for global amphibian declines began almost 30 years ago, it took another decade for ecologists to realize that diseases were a top threat to amphibians.
“For nongame wildlife such as amphibians, emerging infectious diseases were not initially on our radar. We didn’t know about mass die-offs from the multispecies pathogens, like those affecting livestock and humans. Although some diseases were certainly known, they were restricted to the specific infected area or context,” says Deanna (Dede) Olson, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.