Disease complexity in a declining alaskan muskox (Ovibos moschatus) population

Josephine A. Afema, Kimberlee B. Beckmen, Stephen M. Arthur, Kathy Burek Huntington, Jonna A Mazet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The muskox (Ovibos moschatus) population inhabiting the eastern North Slope (ENS) of Alaska, US declined dramatically during 1999–2006, whereas populations in western Alaska (WA) were stable or increasing. To understand morbidity and mortality factors contributing to the decline, Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted pathologic investigations of carcasses from 2005 until 2008. Additionally, archived sera from both ENS and WA muskoxen collected during 1984–92, before the documented beginning of the ENS decline; sera collected during 2000, near the beginning of the decline; and contemporary sera (from live capture–release, adult females) collected during 2006, 2007, and 2008 were analyzed to determine whether prevalence of antibody to potential pathogens differed in the two areas or changed over time. The pathogens investigated were those that were believed could cause lameness or poor reproduction or adversely affect general health. Furthermore, trace mineral levels, hemograms, and gastrointestinal parasites were evaluated in live adult females captured 2006– 08. Pathologic investigations identified several comorbid conditions, including predation, polyarthritis caused by or consistent with Chlamydophila spp. infection, hoof lesions, copper deficiency, contagious ecthyma, verminous pneumonia, hepatic lipidosis suggestive of negative energy balance, and bacterial bronchopneumonia due to Trueperella pyogenes and Bibersteinia trehalosi. Pathogens suspected to be newly introduced in the ENS muskox population on the basis of serologic detection include bovine viral diarrhea, respiratory syncytial virus, Chlamydophila spp., Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, and Leptospira spp., whereas parainfluenza virus-3 antibody prevalence has increased in the WA population. Although multiple disease syndromes were identified that contributed to mortality and, in combination, likely limited the ENS muskox population, further holistic investigations of disease agents, trace mineral status, and nutritional factors in conjunction with intensive demographic and environmental analyses would provide a better understanding of factors that influence Alaskan muskox populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-329
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Alaska
  • Chlamydophila
  • Muskoxen
  • Pathology
  • Polyarthritis
  • Serology
  • Trace minerals
  • Wildlife disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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