Wildlife diseases and contaminants

Avian Flu

Hunters have been shooting and eating wild birds, including waterfowl species known to be reservoirs for avian influenza, for centuries without ill effects. Severely ill wild birds are rarely healthy enough to fly and are more likely to die of natural causes (disease, exposure, or predation) than to be shot by hunters. Cooking will kill the vast majority of pathogens, including avian influenza. Chances are the hunter will be fine, especially if the following precautions are observed when preparing and cooking the

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Environment Yukon tracks the emergence and transmission of wildlife diseases in North America. CWD is a growing threat to wildlife populations in North America. It is a degenerative, fatal brain disease that affects cervids (white tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose and potentially caribou).

The Wildlife Regulation bans the import, sale or possession of scent lures sold for the hunting of cervids that contain animal bodily fluids or tissues because these could introduce disease agents to Yukon locations, including CWD prions.

The regulation also bans the import or possession of the whole carcass or any part of a cervid that has been killed or has died outside of Yukon, with the exception of certain body parts including edible meat. Cervids harvested in NWT or the two most northerly hunting zones in BC are also exempt.

Additional resources:


There are many micro-organisms in the environment that can cause disease in humans. Hunters and trappers should be aware of a disease called tularemia that is caused by bacteria found in contaminated surface water. It can also be acquired by the handling of hares, beavers, muskrats and some other mammals. Tularemia is usually transmitted by contact with infected animals or their immediate environment. This means:

While cases of this disease are not common in Yukon, they can be serious. Cleanliness is important, as is protection from exposure to the animal's blood and other body fluids. Protect yourself by wearing gloves while skinning and gutting the animal. Afterward, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water. If animal fluids splash in your eyes, flush thoroughly with clean water. Make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly, and avoid skinning or handling any animal that appeared ill.

Anyone with symptoms such as fever, swollen glands, or rash after handling wildlife should consult their doctor and let him or her know what animal you have been exposed to.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus is found most commonly in deer mice but could also be present in other rodent species. The virus is transmitted to humans through airborne particles or through water contaminated with feces, urine, saliva or blood. Hantavirus starts with flu-like symptoms including sore muscles, fever, headaches, shortness of breath and nausea. The disease has a 60 per cent mortality rate.

Here are a few precautions you can take when you open up your trapping cabins in the fall and clean out the mouse droppings:

Additional Resources:

Sarcoptic Mange

Affected animals show varying degrees of hair loss, usually on the legs and tail. Badly infected animals can be weak and in poor body condition, and may lose their fear of people. The parasite which causes mange may be transferred through contact. Pets are more susceptible than people.

Winter Ticks


Winter ticks appear to be established in elk in Yukon. Winter ticks can also be found occasionally on other wildlife species (deer, moose, bears, coyotes, caribou, bison and sheep) as well as dogs and horses.

Climate affects the long term trend and distribution of winter ticks in Yukon: a warming climate supports increased tick numbers and distribution while years with cool, wet spring and fall weather reduce tick survival and slows their spread.


For more information see Winter Ticks in Yukon.

Contaminants in Yukon Wildlife

What is Cadmium?

Cadmium is a metal that is found in natural ecosystems in the Yukon. The metal works its way into the soil, and then into plants through the roots. Animals eating those plants will then absorb the metal. Once it is in the body, cadmium may accumulate in the liver and kidney. Older animals tend to have higher levels of cadmium than younger ones.

Cadmium can cause kidney damage at high levels, although this has not been noted in Yukon. Cadmium does not accumulate in the muscle tissue of any animal.

Recommendations for Consumption

These recommendations are based on eating these amounts every year. If you don't eat any this year, you can eat twice as much next year and remain within the recommended limits.

Maximum consumption of organs, per person/year

  Kidneys Livers
Caribou 7-32 4-16
Moose 1 1


Additional Resources


Contact Client Services

Environment Yukon

Government of Yukon

Box 2703 (V-3A)
Whitehorse, Yukon
Canada Y1A 2C6

Phone: 867-667-5652
Toll free (in Yukon): 1-800-661-0408 local 5652
Fax: 867-393-7197

Email: environmentyukon@gov.yk.ca