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A virus is infecting and killing Maine's porcupines

According to state biologists, some porcupines appear to recover from the disease.

MAINE, USA — More of Maine's porcupines are being diagnosed with skunk adenovirus 1, leaving dead porcupines across the state.

The virus was first found in a skunk in Canada in 2014. Since then, it's also been found in hedgehogs, foxes, and raccoons.  

“There was the case in Bar Harbor where there were multiple dead porcupines found on the same property," said Shevenell Webb, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. 

Ann Rivers, executive director of the Acadia Wildlife Center, would not share with NEWS CENTER Maine the number of porcupines found dead on the property. However, David Needle, at the University of New Hampshire Diagnostics Lab, said he received samples from the dead porcupines from Rivers.  

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“We are looking to do a study on this virus specifically," Needle told NEWS CENTER Maine. "I think it’s concerning. Porcupines are pretty widespread and they have a large impact on forest ecology.”

Shelley Spanswick, the director of Center for Wildlife in York, said she recently admitted two young porcupines from the town of Albert. Both showed signs of upper respiratory infection. 

"We sent them out for testing," Spanswick said. "One of them tested positive for skunk adenovirus and I think it's new for Maine to see that." 

The virus is known to have killed at least several porcupines across the state, but Webb says some have been able to fight off the disease.

Although this is a sign of hope for Maine's porcupines, there's still a lot not known about skunk adenovirus 1. Needle said researchers don't know how far the virus has spread. 

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"It doesn't look like it will infect people," said Needle. "It's a respiratory transmitted virus. Its been in rehabilitation facilities and no people have been sick. The fact that it can infect raccoons and fox would make me concerned the virus could potentially infect dogs."  

"Any sort of disease type issues we're constantly monitoring and surveilling," said Webb. "We have not had an influx in calls from the public concerning a lot of porcupines that have been sick or found dead in the past year in Maine. I think this issue is still relatively isolated."

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