Some California wildlife, especially rare and endangered birds, could be at serious risk from the West Nile virus, according to a report from the University of California’s Davis Wildlife Health Center. The report, prepared at the request of the California Department of Fish and Game, predicts where West Nile virus poses the greatest risk by mapping the abundance of mosquitoes and bird species known to “amplify” the virus. This information is compared with the distribution and abundance of rare birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The analyses are colorfully illustrated in a series of GIS maps.
Little is known about the impact of West Nile virus on free-ranging wildlife populations since its introduction to North America in 1999. The virus has killed individuals in more than 200 species of native and exotic birds and 20 species of mammals. The threat to reptiles and amphibians is not believed to be as great as for birds because the mosquito species that feed on them rarely feed on birds.