The San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) is a federally endangered small carnivore whose distribution is limited to the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Population decline is due to profound habitat loss, and conservation of all remaining populations is critical. A robust urban population occurs in the city of Bakersfield. In spring of 2013, putative cases of mange were reported in this population. Mites from affected animals were confirmed to be Sarcoptes scabiei morphologically and by DNA sequencing. By the end of 2014, 15 cases of kit foxes with mange had been confirmed. As with other species, sarcoptic mange in kit foxes is characterized by intense pruritus and dermatitis, caused by mites burrowing into the epidermal layers, as well as alopecia, hyperkeratosis, and encrustations, secondary bacterial infections, and finally extreme morbidity and death. Of the 15 cases, six foxes were found dead, six were captured but died during attempted rehabilitation, and three were successfully treated. We have no evidence that untreated kit foxes can recover from mange. Sarcoptic mange constitutes a significant threat to the Bakersfield kit fox population and could pose an even greater threat to this imperiled species if it spreads to populations in nearby natural lands.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1