Project on fox rabies and wildlife diseases (Fox sampling)

Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) along with the Cree Trappers’ Association conducted a project together on “Fox on Rabies and wildlife disease”. This project originally focused in Nunavik since it was founded by ArcticNet, but this project was extended in the Eeyou Istchee.

This collaboration is a research project on fox rabies and other wildlife diseases. The communities involved in the collecting the fox samples were Chisasibi, Wemindji, Waskaganish, Waswanipi, Mistissini. The goal was to collect eighty-four (84) fox carcasses in totalChisasibi (24), Wemindji (24), Waskaganish (12), Waswanipi (12), Mistissini (12). However due to trapping difficulties the total amount of carcasses collected were Chisasibi (10) Mistissini (2) Wemindji (7) Waskaganish (9)

Total of 28 foxes.

About the species

Arctic fox rabies persists in northern Canada and can spread southward throughout red fox (include all colored phase – red, crossed or silver foxes). Southern incursions of this lethal disease have been documented in late 1960s and 1990s in Québec and in late 1950s in Ontario which contributed to the establishment of the disease in the south of that province. As a consequence of climate warming, colored fox range is expending northward increasing the potential contacts between arctic and colored foxes, which could cause the arctic fox rabies virus to be more regularly transported to southern latitudes. In that context, our ability to predict the potential pathways of southern reinvasions of arctic rabies is of significant concern for human and animal health.

The Project:

          In collaboration with Cree Trappers’ Association, collect carcasses from trapped coloured and arctic foxes in the Cree territories.
          Analyse the carcasses for rabies and parasites infections
          Integrate both scientific and local knowledge from communities to provide useful information about the risk of people and dog exposure to rabies and other diseases associated with foxes.

Questions to answer with this project:
          Can we predict where and when there will be rabies outbreaks?
          How do climate change influence fox behavior and rabies outbreak?
          How fast is rabies spreading in northern Quebec?
          What are the pathways for rabies spread? (North-South? West-East?)
          Are their natural barriers for fox movements and rabies spread?
          Are foxes infected by other diseases? Is there a risk for people?

Fox sampling details:
      Trapped arctic and coloured foxes were to be collected in each community, this require no shooting. The period was from December 2015 to February 2016
        Once collected the whole skinned carcass was shipped to Quebec for analysis (Local trappers keeping the fur)
        Carcasses was collected through the Local Cree Trappers’ Association Office.
        All material for collecting, storing and shipping carcasses was provided.

Benefits for the community:
        Up-to-date information on rabies to better predict where and when rabies outbreaks will occur
        Maps identifying current hot spots for potential rabies spread
        Meetings with the community to exchange knowledge and share the results of the project
        Educational tools to help the people protect themselves against rabies and other parasites in both arctic and coloured foxes