Serum samples from 52 free-ranging brown bears (Ursus arctos) collected in Croatia over a period of 10 yr (1998–2007) were tested by microscopic agglutination test for specific antibodies (Ab) to 12 Leptospira spp. pathogenic serovars. At titers ranging from 1:100 to 1:2,000, 19 samples (36.5%) were Ab-positive to at least one serovar. Antibodies for 10 Leptospira spp. serovars were detected: Icterohaemorrhagiae, Australis, Sejroe, Canicola, Poi, Hardjo, Ballum, Saxkoebing, Pomona, and Grippotyphosa. In comparison to previous reports, the prevalence of Ab to serovar Icterohaemorrhagiae (52.6%) was significantly higher. Other common serovars were Australis (47.4%) and Sejroe (42.1%). High Ab titers for serovars Canicola (1:500) and Grippotyphosa (1:1,000) were detected for the first time in free-ranging bears from Croatia. A significant correlation between the age of the bears and detection of Ab to Leptospira spp. serovars suggested the presence of pathogenic agents in the natural habitats, whereas increasing trends of Ab prevalence for specific serovars (Icterohaemorrhagiae, Australis, and Sejroe) confirmed cohabitation of bears with rats and other small terrestrial mammals on garbage dumps and at bear feeding stations. To prevent cohabitation of bears and rodents, improvements in Croatian waste treatment, big game management, and rodent control programs are strongly recommended, especially in Lika and Gorski Kotar, regions that have high-quality natural habitats for brown bears in Croatia.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1