This critter is having a rough go of it. On Thursday, June 19, Heff Jardie made a Facebook post showing pictures of an exceptional case of mange. The photos were taken in Jefferson County, Missouri, near the town of Hematite. Though some commentators say the creature looks like a “chupacabra” or a “werewolf,” it’s almost certainly a black bear.
Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. According to the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab, it is known to affect wild and domestic mammals. The nasty disease causes hair thinning and loss in animals, as well as other uncomfortable side effects. The affliction tends to impact already stressed or sick animals more than healthy ones.
In recent years, Field & Stream has reported on several outbreaks of mange in bears in Virginia. Wildlife managers were not able to find any explanations for the causes of those surges. Despite the recent sighting of the abnormal-looking bear, wildlife managers have not yet reported an unusual surge of mange in bears in Missouri so far this summer. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), black bear populations are still recovering in the Show-Me State. The public is asked to report bear sightings to the MDC through an online submission form.
Unfortunately, not much can be done when wild animals contract mange. A drug known as Ivermectin can be used to treat mange in captive animals but it is not typically used on free-ranging wildlife because of the need for several treatments weeks apart. Some animals, though, can resolve their cases of mange without additional treatment.