One Health in Montana
Lincoln Park Zoo and Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Reservation have embarked on an ambitious community conservation partnership focusing on black-footed ferrets, one of the world’s rarest mammals.
In 2009, Lincoln Park Zoo began developing a partnership with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, which hosts the 17th black-footed ferret reintroduction site, to assist the tribe with their endangered black-footed ferret recovery program. Since then, zoo researchers have worked with the tribe on outreach and education on the prairie ecosystem and assisted with professional development for their biologist.
Continuing this partnership, in 2014, zoo scientists explored the relationship between people and animal health on the reservation and gathered information to assist the tribe with the development of a management plan for the free-roaming dog and horse population, which is a potential health hazard to both animals and people. Dogs can present public health risks for zoonotic diseases, such as rabies (when left unvaccinated) and Leptospirosis. Dogs can also carry canine distemper virus, which poses a threat to ferrets.
In 2013 and 2014, zoo scientists surveyed over 150 northern Cheyenne residents to understand their dog ownership practices, contact with the free-roaming dogs, animal bites and injuries, symptoms of recent illnesses, and history of medical conditions. They found that only a quarter of owners had taken their dog to the vet in the past year and that most dogs had ticks and fleas (potential vectors for disease). Contact with these free-roaming dogs was positively associated with getting sick.
Maintaining dog health is important not for just the health and viability of black-footed ferrets on the reservation, but also for people. Results from this project can be used to develop recommendations and solutions to potential health risks in the community for both people and animals. This could include actively promoting better veterinary care of pets and free-ranging domestic animals, encouraging improved ownership practices, and raising awareness of the potential risk of disease transmission between people and animals.