SPRINGDALE — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is asking anyone who harvests a bear in the Ouachita Mountains or Ozarks to consider helping collect valuable samples from their bear to help research an increased occurrence of mange in the Ozark bear population.

According to Myron Means, bears in Arkansas have not had any reported cases of mange until 2018. That year, four cases were documented in Ozarks bears. In 2019, 15 cases of mange were reported, and in 2020 that number rose to 40 reported cases. All of these cases were in bears in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“This year, we’ve already received 40 reports from hunters, biologists and wildlife watchers,” Means said. “So far, it’s only in the Ozarks, so we’re developing a plan to research possible factors that may be contributing to the problem.”

Means says the mites that cause mange in bears are common on bears, but they rarely cause any issues.

“Sarcoptes scabies is the mite that causes bear mange, and it’s been around ever since bears have been around,” Means said. “The bear’s immune response usually allows it to live without seeing too many harmful effects from the mites, but something seems to have changed with some bears in the Ozarks.”

Dr. Jenn Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian for the AGFC, says research is needed to determine any underlying cause contributing to the apparent increase in cases seen recently.

“Toxins, viruses and other environmental factors may be increasing the frequency of clinical mange, or it could be a new form of the mite,” Ballard said. “In the west, bobcats that are exposed to rodenticides in the animals they eat have been documented as having increased occurrence of clinical mange.”

Similar toxins responsible for weakening the bear’s immune system could be detected in

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