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Mange in Wildlife

 

Foxes and Coyotes

Sarcoptic mange is probably the biggest killer of red foxes and coyotes in New Jersey. It is a highly contagious disease and can be easily spread to other animals and to humans. It is caused by an infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei canis, a burrowing mite, causing intense itching from an allergic reaction to the mite and resulting in hair loss. Secondary skin infection is also common.

The season and weather conditions can influence how readily afflicted animals may succumb to the disease. If the animals have mange in the winter they typically do not (or rarely) survive. In late spring or summer they can survive the infection, and some might even improve if their immune system is not too compromised.

All red foxes and coyotes may have a few of the mange mites on their body, but the weak and stressed animals (young, old, injured, etc.) are the most susceptible. The mites are spread through contact with sites (dens, etc.) where the mites are present or through contact with infected animals (other coyotes or foxes). In that sense, itís a "social" disease. Although a healthy animal, well fed and non-stressed, may have the mites present on their body, their immune system fights off and overcomes any problems.

Gray foxes donít have a problem with mange. Domestic dogs can get mange by contact with an infected animal but are easily treated. Treatment of wild animals is difficult and not advised. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with a fox or coyote with mange contact your veterinarian. Sarcoptic mange is also a zoonotic disease, meaning humans are also at risk of infection. If you suspect you have come into contact with a wild animal with mange contact your healthcare provider.

Coyote with mange in parking lot
Coyote with mange - note condition of normally bushy tail
Click to enlarge

Deer

The mange mite of deer is Demodex odocoilei. Most deer harbor the parasite without development of clinical signs. When they do succumb to the mite areas of small to extensive hair loss often with thickening of the skin are visisble. Death due to mange in deer has not been reported and this particular mite only infests deer. Most cases of severe demodectic mange in deer have been in adult males during fall and winter, though less severe cases can be seen in adults in the summer. This mite is not transmissible to humans or pets.

Other possible causes of hair loss in White-tailed deer, that are highly infectious and transmissible to not only other deer but to humans and pets, include a condition called Dermatophilosis. This is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. Infected deer have pustules on their skin and patchy hair loss. These areas are often covered by loose crusty scabs with tufts of hair stuck within the hardened crusts. Sometimes the infected area can resemble a paintbrush pattern. This disease is also known as "Rain Rot" in livestock.

Adult deer seem to tolerate infection with this bacterium well and generally recover. In fawns the prognosis is less promising, with some becoming weak and emaciated. Occasionally, fawns may die when lesions are severe.

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with a deer with Dermatophilosis contact your veterinarian. If you or a family member is suspected of coming into contact with the bacterium, please contact your healthcare provider.

If an infected animal is observed acting sickly contact your local animal control officers, police, or the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Control Unit or the DEP Hotline (877-WARN-DEP).

Mange Fact Sheet (pdf, Northeast Wildlife Disease Cooperative)

Foxes in New Jersey
Coyotes in New Jersey
White-tailed Deer in New Jersey
Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics

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Department of Environmental Protection
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Last Updated: June 8, 2020