In 2013, three golden eagles were identified in the Altamont pass with signs of severe mite infestation. Two birds died before they could be captured for therapy, and one bird was treated and released after almost one year of therapy. A number of suspect cases have been observed in free-ranging golden eagles since that time in CA, OR and NV. Most of these reports from biologists have yet to be proven, but the disease characterized by severe feather loss has been identified in images from birds are very similar to those from the 3 index positive birds. Overall, although the mites found in the eagles are similar to the avian mange mite Micknemidokoptes derooi, they likely represent a new species.
The severe and diffuse distribution of the feather loss of these eagles from the CA inner coastal mountains suggest a possible serious, unique outbreak. In order to better define the extent of the outbreak, additional molecular tools for use in eagles, sympatric species, and nest material would be valuable. Drs. Janet Foley (Co-Director of the Center for Vector Borne-Diseases) and Michelle Hawkins, (Director of the California Raptor Center) propose to design a specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) DNA assay to evaluate any future cases and offspring they may produce as well as nest material for the Micnemidocoptes sp. mite.