Mange is occasionally observed in black bears within Maryland. Mange is a highly contagious skin disease caused by parasitic mites. To learn about mange in other wildlife species,
A black bear exhibiting moderate mange symptoms
Appearance and Symptoms
Bears with mange may have an altered appearance depending upon the stage and progression of the disease. Bears with mild cases of mange may exhibit hairless patches along the body, face or ears. Moderate to severe cases may show more extensive hair loss accompanied by crusty, dry skin and or scabs across the afflicted area. Altered behavior, where a bear is unaware of its surroundings or undeterred by human activity may also occur. In extreme cases, bears with mange may deplete their fat reserves and lose a significant portion of their muscle mass- animals in this state are likely to be past the point of recovery.
Black bears that contract mange may become more easily observable and less cautious around people. Occasionally, bears with mange may seek thermal refuge in or near human structures during cold periods of the year, and may be more prone to utilize adjacent food resources such as agricultural crops and refuse. In extreme cases, starvation brought on by mange may also drive bears to prey on livestock.
Mange transmission is not fully understood in black bears, but the spread of the disease is likely facilitated in part by humans. Bears are typically solitary animals, which aggregate only to den and to feed. The elimination of human related food sources such as
bird feeders, unsecured garbage and outdoor pet food encourages bears to utilize natural foods and lowers the likelihood of disease transmission between animals.
What can I do?
Mange was first confirmed in black bears in Maryland in 2008 and continues to be a subject of interest to DNR. The public is encouraged to report sightings of bears with mange to the nearest wildlife office; a directory of regional wildlife service offices can be found
Treatment of mange requires multiple doses of anti-parasite medication, and is impractical to routinely implement on free ranging animals. Bears are naturally resilient, and individual responses to mange can depend on a myriad of factors, including body condition, ambient temperature, and habitat quality. Private property owners living amongst black bears are strongly encouraged to implement
bear safe practices to reduce human-bear conflicts, and prevent unnatural aggregations of wildlife.