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Ground Squirrels in Boise Test Positive For Plague

For the second year in a row, Idaho health officials say tests on dead ground squirrels south of Boise have come back positive for plague.



There is a circular area where ground squirrels are infected. It's 45 miles south of Boise and the boundary extends over Interstate 48.

“Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and it’s transmitted through bites of infected fleas," Heckler said. "It can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly," said Mike Heckler, the spokesman for Idaho Fish and Game. He says people need to be cautious when their pets are outdoors.

“It’s important that pets in particular stay clear of these ground squirrels, particularly if they find a dead one; not to roll in it or bring it back or anything like that. And to take adequate precautions to ensure that the pet doens't become infected by the fleas and doesn't somehow transmit it to people,” Heckler said.

Annette Roug, a veterinarian at the Utah Division of Wildlife, said there are no known ground squirrels that currently carry plague in Utah and the risk of it spreading from Idaho is low. But last year, there were reported outbreaks in Utah prairie dogs.

Roug said people should avoid contact with wild animals, especially those that are acting strange, whether or not there is a known outbreak of plague. She says not to approach wild animals, pick them up or to let pets hunt them.

Fortunately, Heckler says, ground squirrels will only be out for a few more weeks.

“Come about July 1, you won’t see ground squirrels on the landscape," Heckler said. "Ground squirrels will go back underground for the remainder of the year and won’t emerge until February. When that happens, this disease is effectively contained until next year and we will see if it re-emerges then.”