Since its inception in 2004, the Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Disease Program (NWDP) has collected almost 600,000 samples from more than 200 wildlife species across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam. Its mission is to survey for wildlife diseases, parasites and disease-causing agents of agricultural and human health concern. NWDP experts also serve as first responders to emergencies, such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters and oil spills.
In 2017, NWDP disease biologists collected more than 28,000 samples (see table below) in order to monitor for diseases, such as avian influenza, pseudorabies, plague and leptospirosis. With 32 wildlife disease biologists across the country, NWDP and its partners provide an “early warning system” to America’s agricultural producers, natural resources managers and public health officials who may be impacted by wildlife disease outbreaks.
As first responders, NWDP biologists can be mobilized within 24 to 48 hours of an emergency response request from APHIS programs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or state agencies. They have extensive Incident Command System and emergency response training, medical clearances for personal protective equipment, and unique skills, such as immobilization and euthanasia certification or firearms expertise.