Knowledge of the distribution and pathology of West Nile virus (WNV) in black bears is a necessary tool that allows wildlife managers to implement a management plan, set harvest quotas, and relocate nuisance bears. We studied the presence and significance of WNV titers in free-roaming black bears (Ursus americanus) in northeastern Wisconsin between February 2003 and March 2005. Serum neutralizing antibodies to WNV, with confirmation by plaque-reduction neutralization test to both WNV and Saint Louis encephalitis, identified exposure in 13 of 74 (17.6%) bears. This compares with a 6% infection rate in black bears in Virginia and 22% in European brown bears (Ursus arctos). Pathologic effects from exposure to WNV were not seen in any of the black bears studied.
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Vol. 71 • No. 2