Author(s): Kenneth L. Gage and Michael Y. Kosoy

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Abstract: Plague (Yersinia pestis infection) presents serious risks not only to humans but also to wildlife species such as prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) and the critically endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes). The effects of plague are sufficiently serious to hamper recovery of ferrets and prairie dogs in areas that experience repeated epizootic activity. In order to more effectively manage and reduce plague risks for both wildlife and humans, we must improve our understanding of what factors influence the distribution of plague, the transmission and spread of epizootics, and the ability of the plague bacterium to maintain itself indefinitely in some populations of rodent hosts and their flea (Insecta: Siphonaptera) vectors. This article provides a review of our current knowledge of plague ecology. We also describe how recent research advances are providing significant new knowledge and methodologies that can help us better manage plague risks and reduce the impact of the disease on mammalian populations, including those of conservation interest.

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