Apr 17, 2020
 in 
Nature

Bubonic Plague Killing Yellowstone Park Cougars

 BY 
Matthew Mann
W

hile the world’s population has been under quarantine for a virus transmitted by animals, scientists have finally concluded that one species has been dying from a thought to be an extinct plague – the bubonic plague.

During 2006, wildlife researchers had noticed that cougars were dying in perplexing circumstances. The scientist carried out tests on 28 of the big cats in the greater Yellowstone area for Yersinia pestis; the bacteria most famous for causing the bubonic plague in Europe.

The Black Death Resurfaces

The Bubonic plague was responsible for an estimated 50 million deaths during the 14 century. Sweeping through Asia, Europe, and Africa, the bubonic plague was one of the most devastating diseases to infest the earth. It was responsible for killing between 25 and 60% of the working Europeans, causing demand for workers to increase exponentially while driving the wages up. It was considered to be the turning point of the European economy.

The results from the Yellowstone study showed that almost half of the cougars had been exposed during the years between 2005 and 2014. Antibodies of the plague were found in 47% of the tested cougars and the actual bacteria was found in 4 of the 11 deceased bodies. The article goes on to state the disease could be even more prevalent than portrayed by their results, as well, it seems that some of the animals can lose and regain the bacteria. In fact, a cougar coined as “M21”, was tested and came back negative twice in a span of 3 years, tested positive the next year, and then negative the year after that.

The Yersinia pestis bacteria are actually fairly common in soils worldwide and are usually transmitted to rodents and fleas. Although its presence remains prevalent in smaller organisms, it can be passed on to humans. Rest assured though; the possibility is very low and can be treated by basic antibiotics.