Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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Parasites and Diseases
A Field Guide
TO COMMON WILDLIFE DISEASES
AND PARASITES IN ALASKA
BESNOITIOSIS (Bone Meal Disease)
|What causes besnoitiosis?|
- Besnoitiosis is caused by an intracellular parasite (Besnoitia tarandi).
- Lifecycle: The parasite needs both an herbivore (e.g., caribou or muskox) and a carnivore host. The parasite multiplies in the herbivore forming cysts that contain many spores. The carnivore becomes infected when it eats meat from a herbivore with cysts. The parasite comes out in the carnivore’s droppings and contaminates plants that are eaten by herbivores.
|Where does besnoitiosis occur?|
- Besnoitia may be able to infect a wide range of ungulates (hoofed animals).
- It occurs in caribou, reindeer, and muskoxen.
- In Alaska, besnoitiosis occurs commonly in caribou.
|What are the signs of besnoitiosis?|
- Animals usually appear healthy.
- Heavily infected animals may lose hair on their lower legs and face, and skin may be thick.
- Besnoitiosis can be most easily identified when skinning the lower legs.
- Cysts are hard and feel like a slight roughness (sand paper) over the bone and skin.
- Cysts appear as clear to white very small round lumps (like grains of corn meal) embedded in tissue.
- Similar tiny cysts may be visible on the eye.
|How can I protect myself?|
- You cannot get besnoitiosis from infected animals.
|Can I eat the meat?|
- Meat from infected animals is suitable for human consumption.
- Cook meat well.
- Do not feed infected meat to dogs.
|Samples to collect|