Itchy and Scratchy. They’re more than just cartoon characters on television’s “The Simpsons.” They’re also the way a number of St. Charles coyotes are feeling these days.
Unlike the TV version, what these animals are going through is no laughing matter. Their itches, which induce scratches, are caused by a pernicious ectoparasite Sarcoptes scabiei. This burrowing mite can infect many types of animals, but in our area, coyotes, foxes and squirrels seem to be the most common carriers.
Sarcoptic mange mites are very common, and in healthy animals cause little more than itching and scratching. But in animals whose health is compromised, say by heartworm or poor diet, the infestation can grow unchecked. Scratching the interminable itch can lead to secondary infections and often leathery, furless skin. This carries greater consequences in winter, when warm fur is most needed, but also can lead to death from hypothermia during the type of weather we experienced earlier this spring – lots of rain and cool temperatures.
According to the Urban Coyote Research program, an awesome endeavor that began in 2000, mange was first detected in coyotes in the Chicago region in 2002. I remember when it ripped through the local fox population before that in the late 1980s or early ’90s, if memory serves. It took them years to repopulate.
By contrast, the local coyote population has remained relatively stable. What mange tends to do is change the behavior of the affected animal. Instead of being active at dawn…
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