Infectious Diseases of North American Black Bears (Ursus americanus): Viral and Bacterial Pathogens (Part One)


  • Mark A. Mitchell DVM, MS, PhD Louisiana State University
  • D. Zimmermann DVM, MS Memphis Zoo



Infectious disease, Ursus, black bear, viral, bacterial, pathogen, wildlife


Black bears (Ursus americanus) serve as an important keystone species within an ecosystem, and can also serve as sentinels for environmental health. Wildlife rehabilitators, biologists, and veterinarians working with these animals should familiarize themselves with infectious diseases commonly associated with these ursids. The purpose of this article is to provide a literature review of the common viral and bacterial pathogens associated with black bears.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Mark A. Mitchell DVM, MS, PhD, Louisiana State University

Dr. Mitchell is a former member of the NWRA Board of Directors. He is Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine, and Director of the Wildlife Hospital of Louisiana at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA.

D. Zimmermann DVM, MS, Memphis Zoo

Dr. Zimmerman graduated from Ross University after a clinical year at Louisiana State University. She completed an internship in zoological medicine at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, and is currently the associate veterinarian at Memphis Zoo.


Aguirre, A. A., R. G. McLean, et al. 1992. Serologic survey for selected arboviruses and other potential pathogens in wildlife from Mexico. J Wildlife Diseases, 28(3):435–442.

Barnes, D. M., and L. L. Rogers. 1980. Clostridial myonecrosis in a black bear associated with drug administration. J Wildlife Diseases, 16(3):315–317.

Binninger, C. E., J. J. Beecham, et al. 1980. A serologic survey for selected infectious diseases of black bears in Idaho. J Wildlife Diseases, 16(3):423–430.

Cheville, N. F., D. R. McCullough, and L. R. Paulson. 1998. Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone area. National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Clover, J. R., T. D. Hofstra, et al. 1989. Serologic evidence of Yersinia pestis infection in small mammals and bears from a temperate rainforest of north coastal California. J Wildlife Diseases, 25(1):52–60.

Collins, J. E., P. Leslie, et al. 1984. Epizootic of adenovirus infection in American black bears. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 185(11):1430–1432.

Drew, M. L., D. A. Jessup, et al. 1992. Serologic survey for brucellosis in feral swine, wild ruminants, and black bear of California, 1977 to 1989. J Wildlife Diseases, 28(3):355–363.

Dunbar, M. R., M. W. Cunningham, et al. 1998. Seroprevalence of selected disease agents from free-ranging black bears in Florida. J Wildlife Diseases, 34(3):612–619.

Farajollahi, F., N. A. Panella, et al. 2003. Serologic evidence of West Nile virus infection in black bears (Ursus americanus) from New Jersey. J Wildlife Diseases, 39(4):894–896.

Hassard, T. H. 1991. Estimation. In Understanding Biostatistics. T. H. Hassard (ed). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Year Book. Pp. 38–51.

Kazmierczak, J. J., T. E. Amundson, et al. 1988. Borreliosis in free-ranging black bears from Wisconsin. J Wildlife Diseases, 24(2):366–368.

Pacha, R. E., G. W. Clark, et al. 1987. Small rodents and other mammals associated with mountain meadows as reservoirs of Giardia spp. and Campylobacter spp. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 53(7):1574–1579.

Pirtle, E. C., M. E. Roelke, et al. 1986. Antibodies against pseudorabies virus in the serum of a Florida black bear cub. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 189(9):1164.

Pursell, A. R., B. P. Stuart, et al. 1983. Isolation of an adenovirus from black bear cubs. J Wildlife Diseases, 19(3):269–271.

Ruppanner, R., D. A. Jessup, et al. 1982. Serologic survey for certain zoonotic diseases in black bears in California. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 181(11):1288–1291.

Schultze, A. E., R. K. Maes, et al. 1986. Pseudorabies and volvulus in a black bear. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 189(9):1165–1166.

Smith, C. R., B. C. Nelson, et al. 1984. The use of wild carnivore serology in determining patterns of plague activity in rodents in California. Proceedings Eleventh Vertebrate Pest Conference. Pp. 71–76.

van Belle, G., and S. P. Millard. 1998. STRUTS: Statistical Rules Of Thumb. . Seattle, WA. Pp. 3–14.

van der Leek, M. L., H. N. Becker, et al. 1993. Prevalence of pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s disease) virus antibodies in feral swine in Florida. J Wildlife Diseases, 29(3):403–409.

Walroth, R., N. Brown, et al. 1996. Rabid black bears in Ontario. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 37(8):492.

Wandeler, A. I., and G. A. Casey. 1993. Eastern Canada rabies diagnoses, January 1–June 30, 1992. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 34:123.

Whetstone, C. A., H. Draayer, et al. 1988. Characterization of canine adenovirus type 1 isolated from American black bears. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 49(6):778–780.

Zarnke, R. L., and T. M. Yuill. 1981. Serologic survey for selected microbial agents in mammals from Alberta, 1976. J Wildlife Diseases, 17(3):453–461.

Zarnke, R. L. 1983. Serologic survey for selected microbial pathogens in Alaskan wildlife. J Wildlife Diseases, 19(4):324–329.




How to Cite

Mitchell, M., & Zimmerman, D. (2021). Infectious Diseases of North American Black Bears (Ursus americanus): Viral and Bacterial Pathogens (Part One). Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, 22(2), 37–42.