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Amphibians used as bait infected with ranavirus and chytrid

Lamb

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This may be old news to some of you, but I just read it in the most recent HerpDigest. I'm planning on writing my next environmental piece for the university's news paper on this topic, as there must be some MS citizens using caudates for bait.

"Spring Fishing Season Arrives ... And With It, Amphibian Diseases - Bait Shop Trade Likely Source Of Pathogen Spread In Salamanders
Press Release 4/609 National Science Foundation

Waterdogs, they're called, larvae of tiger salamanders used as live bait for freshwater fishing.

With tiger salamander larvae, anglers hope to catch largemouth bass, channel catfish and other freshwater fishes.

They may be in for more than they bargained for: salamanders in bait shops in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico are infected with ranaviruses, and those in Arizona, with a chytrid fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).

"These diseases have spread with the global trade in amphibians,'" says James Collins, assistant director for biological sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Collins is currently on leave from Arizona State University. "The commercial amphibian bait trade may be a source of 'pathogen pollution.'" Pathogens are disease-causing agents such as some viruses and bacteria.

Along with biologist Angela Picco of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento, Calif., Collins screened tiger salamanders in the western U.S. bait trade for both ranaviruses and Bd, and conducted surveys of anglers to determine how often tiger salamanders are used as bait, and how frequently the salamanders are let go in fishing waters.

The scientists also organized bait-shop surveys to determine whether tiger salamanders are released back into the wild after being housed in shops.

"We found that all tiger salamanders that ended up in the bait trade were originally collected from the wild," says Picco. "In general, they were moved from east to west and north to south--bringing with them multiple ranavirus strains."

Results of the research show that 26 to 73 percent of fishers used tiger salamanders as bait; 26 to 67 percent of anglers released tiger salamanders bought as bait into fishing waters; and four percent of bait shops put salamanders back in the wild after the waterdogs were housed with infected animals.

"The tiger salamander bait trade in the western U.S. is a good model for understanding the consequences of unregulated movement of amphibians and their pathogens," says Collins.

Examples of pathogen pollution are many and dramatic.

Europeans grazed cattle in African savannas, thereby introducing rinderpest, which resulted in massive losses of native African animals and changes to an entire ecosystem.

The import of Japanese chestnuts to the U.S. led to the introduction of chestnut blight, which nearly eradicated American chestnuts.

An international trade in and transport of infected timber spread Dutch elm disease throughout North America, Europe and Southwest Asia.

In the case of amphibians and reptiles, millions of kilograms of the animals may be shipped across the U.S. border each year.

"Many of them are not coming alone," says Picco. "They've got company: ranaviruses and Bd."

Waterdogs have been used as bait for at least 40 years. In 1968, 2.5 million tiger salamander larvae were sold as bait in the lower Colorado River area alone. Waterdogs in that one year were worth $500,000, equivalent to $2,766,489 in 2005 after adjusting for inflation.

"Since the tiger salamander bait trade isn't regulated or controlled in most areas of the western United States," says Picco, "there's no information about the number of individuals collected or traded annually."

She and Collins used the Web site www.baitnet.com to find a listing of bait shops in Arizona. Fourteen shops sold waterdogs, all of which were sampled in their study. The scientists collected 30 waterdogs per bait shop each month, or as often as the salamanders were available.

From March to October of 2005, 85 percent of Arizona bait shops sampled sold at least one ranavirus-infected tiger salamander.

In 2006, ranaviruses were detected in the tiger salamander bait trade between May and October in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, but were not found in the few bait shops sampled in Nebraska and Texas.

Three of nine shops tested in Arizona in 2007 had animals with Bd.

"If the presence of a pathogen in bait-trade salamanders is narrowed to several distributors, the movement of animals from these dealers could be stopped," says Collins.

"A quarantine program would help prevent the introduction of non-native pathogens into threatened, susceptible populations," he says. "Random monitoring of pathogen movement through the bait trade may help limit the spread of amphibian diseases."

Collins and Picco published a paper reporting the findings in Volume 22, Number 6,of the journal Conservation Biology."

I think that a great way to counteract this is through public education. No, most people aren't avid amphibian lovers, like many of us, but they aren't completely insensitive either. I think that if more people know that this practice is spreading lethal disease, and if they understand that amphibians play major roles in ecosystems, we could see a change.
 

josh1990

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The sad fact is, that people don`t care. As long as that waterdog or that spring lizard brings in the fish, people will still use them.
If it is legal or not, someone will go out, grab 50 dusky salamanders, use say 10-12, then dump the rest in the water.
Virginia is getting better on these laws, you can only have 5 salamanders under 6 inches for fishing bait, and cannot sell them. But the odd thing is the law says 50 in aggregate.
Heck, I don`t mind people wild collecting a few salamanders for personal use, but this is wrong.

Lets ram the eagle claw hook through the redneck and see if he/she enjoys it!:violent:
 

Lamb

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The sad fact is, that people don`t care. As long as that waterdog or that spring lizard brings in the fish, people will still use them.

Maybe I'm still a little naive, but I haven't lost all faith in people. Some people do care, and will care, IF they understand what is going on. For example, I give lectures to local high school classes on Crotalus adamanteus (eastern diamondback rattlesnake) and we discuss threats and conservation issues facing this species. After teaching a few classes at Oak Grove High School, the kids sent me thank you cards. Most were the typical "thanks for talking about the snakes," "thanks for getting us out of regular class," "i liked seeing/touching the snakes," but there was one card that I remember in particular because it gave me goosebumps. The kid wrote that they were glad that people like me were doing what I was doing because maybe it would change the way other people behaved towards snakes, and maybe that if more people did what I do species wouldn't be in as much trouble as they are now. I know it was one out of around 70, but that kid got it. He/she (I can't recall the name right now) understood. It's cards like those that make me want to expose people to reptiles and amphibians, and inform them of the important roles these animals play. Maybe our turnover rate will only be 1 out of every 70, but that is someone. And that someone will talk to other people and so on and so forth. We can't enlighten everyone, but enlightening a few is worth it and can elicit change.
 

SludgeMunkey

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Since many of the states have failed on this, the fed is stepping in whether we like it or not. A prime example of a state failing on this topic is Nebraska.

By state law it is illegal to have any native species as a pet or develop a native species for the pet trade. However for 25 dollars you can get a fishing license and collect all the tiger salamander larvae you want for bait. No bag limit.

The kicker is, out of 3 species in the state, A. tigrinum and A. t. mavortum have pretty much wiped out texanum (with chemical help) due to their use as bait statewide.
 

Ichthyostega

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I'm rather upset by this.

Personally, I don't feel comfortable using amphibians as live bait anyway, but that's my opinion. What upsets me more is that people don't care about the environment. But here are people who care.

By the way, is it a good idea to take all of my pet amphibians to a vet to test them for chytrid fungus sometime in the future?
 

josh1990

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No, I don`t like people using salamanders for bait either, but many folks will still use them. This is common in many rural areas as you know. I think reaching out to the younger generations, my generation, is key. The older mountain folk don`t like change and like to use "spring lizards".
Tell the kids to put down the video game and turn over a rock and take a good look at that eastern garter snake or mud salamander, they need to understand all of God`s creatures.
 

supergrappler

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Caudates as bait infuriates me. In California it has been illegal to do this for some time thanks to conscientious voters, and politicians whom are more wildlife savvy. I think the root problem in this regard is lack of education/knowledge. I am shocked that these so called "outdoorsman" do not have the mental capacity to realize that caudate resources are not expendable at this point. I mean since they are always outside dont they see the numbers of "spring lizards" becoming less and less????

Anyways I am surprised to hear that any state in our country still sell caudates/amphibians as bait. Its sickening really.
 
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