Plague-infected prairie dogs prompt shutdowns near Denver. Fleas can spread it to pets and humans.

August 18 at 12:34 PM

Parts of a Colorado wildlife refuge remained closed Sunday after plague-infected prairie dogs were discovered there in late July. Wildlife and nature areas near Denver have also been shut down as officials continue efforts to stem the spread of the disease.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, a 15,000-acre nature area northeast of Denver, was able to partially reopen Sunday. The refuge is home to many species, like bison and bald eagles, and is where the plague concerns developed.

Plague-infected fleas were biting black-tailed prairie dogs, and officials began closing affected areas “as a precautionary measure to prioritize visitor health and safety, while also allowing staff to protect wildlife health,” according to a statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The risk posed to hikers and pets is why certain areas remain closed. Dogs are less susceptible to the plague than cats but may pick up fleas that can infect other animals and people, said Gilbert Cazier, an environmental health specialist in the Tri-County Health Department.

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