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6 January 2021 Mortality Associated with Bushfire Smoke Inhalation in a Captive Population of the Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus), a Threatened Australian Rodent
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Abstract

A mortality event of nine threatened smoky mice (Pseudomys fumeus) occurred in January 2020 at a captive breeding facility in southeastern Australia that was affected at the time by hazardous levels of bushfire smoke, despite being more than 20 km from the nearest fire. Pathologic and clinical observations indicated smoke inhalation was the cause of death. All animals had significant pulmonary lesions, notably pulmonary edema and congestion, and moderate amounts of dark brown to black pigmented intracellular and extracellular particles from <0.5–2.5 µm in diameter were observed in the central or hilar region of the lungs of four of six animals examined histologically. Deaths occurred between three and 30 d after exposure to smoke and, for seven animals in outdoor acclimatization enclosures, were associated with very high ambient temperature (>40 C). Similar mortalities did not occur in co-located parrots, suggesting differing species sensitivity to smoke inhalation. Our findings highlight the potential for smoke to be an underdiagnosed cause of mortality in free-ranging wildlife during bushfires and for bushfires to affect wildlife populations outside of burnt areas, including in unburnt refugia. Conservation interventions for wildlife after bushfires should consider and, where possible, mitigate the risk of animals dying due to increased respiratory demand following smoke inhalation injury.

© Wildlife Disease Association 2021
Andrew Peters, Sandy Hume, Shane Raidal, Lisa Crawley, and Daniel Gowland "Mortality Associated with Bushfire Smoke Inhalation in a Captive Population of the Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus), a Threatened Australian Rodent," Journal of Wildlife Diseases 57(1), 199-204, (6 January 2021). https://doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-20-00026
Received: 13 February 2020; Accepted: 18 August 2020; Published: 6 January 2021
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