Eye on Agriculture Guide

Health officials tracking increase of animal tularemia cases
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH) are tracking an increase of tularemia cases in Minnesota animals, especially cats in the Twin Cities metro area. Officials warn that people can become infected with tularemia as well, mainly through contact with sick animals.
Typically, only about seven animal tularemia cases are reported annually. In 2023, however, 21 cases were reported, and seven cases already have been reported in 2024. Animals that have not been tested are also showing clinical signs consistent with tularemia, according to veterinarians.
Tularemia, a potentially serious illness that can infect animals and people, occurs naturally in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which is found in wildlife — particularly rabbits, squirrels and other rodents. Pets are most often exposed to tularemia by hunting these animals, but they can also be exposed through tick or fly bites. Although many animals can be infected with tularemia, cats are at an increased risk. Signs of illness in animals include a high fever, weakness, lack of appetite, newly formed skin or mouth ulcers and swollen lymph nodes.
“This increase in animal cases is likely partially driven by increased recognition and testing by veterinarians,” said Maria Bye, senior epidemiologist in the Zoonotic Diseases Unit at MDH. “Pet owners need to be aware that cats, especially, can become very ill with a high fever and can quickly succumb to the disease. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of this disease in their pets because it is possible for a person to become infected as well.”
There are six or fewer human tularemia cases each year in Minnesota. People most commonly become infected with tularemia from tick and fly bites, bites and scratches from infected pet cats or by touching animals that have the disease. Tularemia is not spread person to person.
All forms of tularemia in humans are accompanied by a sudden onset of fever. Other signs and symptoms include skin wounds or ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, chills, joint and muscle pain and nausea. Symptoms in people generally appear three to five days after exposure but may occur as soon as the next day or up to 14 days after exposure.
In May 2024, a person from Ramsey County developed tularemia after being bitten by a stray cat. In June, a person from Hennepin County became infected after mowing over a dead animal.
To keep people and pets safe from tularemia:
Keep cats indoors and do not allow pets to hunt small animals.
Give pets tick preventative medication to help prevent tick bites.
Use insect repellent to stop ticks and flies from biting.
Avoid contact with wild animals; wear gloves if you must handle them.
If pets spend significant time outside or if they have had known rabbit or rodent contact and develop symptoms consistent with tularemia, MDH and BAH encourage owners to bring them into their veterinarian for evaluation.

Crowing Counts Up Statewide
ND Game & Fish
The number of roosters heard crowing during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2024 spring pheasant crowing count survey was up 37% statewide from last year.
“This is really good news but expected, considering we had such great production last year and the mild winter we had certainly wasn’t hard on birds,” said RJ Gross, Department upland game management biologist.
The primary regions holding pheasants showed 28.8 crows per stop in the southwest, up from 19.5 in 2023; 21.5 crows per stop in the northwest, up from 16.6; and 16 crows per stop in the southeast, up from 12.8. The count in the northeast, which is not a primary region for pheasants, was 5 crows per stop, up from 3.3 last year.
Barring untimely heavy rains, cool weather or hail, Gross expects more good news as the peak of the pheasant hatch is upon us.
“The residual cover this year was great … with timely rains, the habitat for nesting looks great,” Gross said. “We should be setting up for a good fall.”
Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a 2-minute period.
The number of pheasant crows heard are compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
Over 1,500 producers and 1 million acres have been Water Quality Certified in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years.
Through this program, certified producers receive:
Regulatory certainty: certified producers are deemed to be in compliance with any new water quality rules or laws during the period of certification
Recognition: certified producers may use their status to promote their business as protective of water quality
Priority for technical assistance: producers seeking certification can obtain specially designated technical and financial assistance to implement practices that promote water quality
Through this program, the public receives:
Assurance that certified producers are using conservation practices to protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams.

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