New Brunswick

Atlantic Wildlife Institute saves chipmunk from botfly larvae

Staff at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute has been busy removing parasites from all sorts of animals the last few weeks, including one unlucky chipmunk.

Institute nurses chipmunk back to health, helping other animals during prime season for parasites

The Atlantic Wildlife Institute kept the chipmunk for about a week and nursed it back to health. (Atlantic Wildlife Institute)

The Atlantic Wildlife Institute has been busy removing parasites from animals the last few weeks like one poor chipmunk that became a burrow for a botfly.

Pam Novak, the institute's director, said friends of hers found the chipmunk in their backyard and realized something was wrong with it.

"So, they brought it to us and we flipped it over on its back and you can see this mass in its stomach but it was moving," Novak said.

Novak said the mass was about an inch long and there was a small entry hole where the botfly had made its way into the chipmunk's skin.

Novak said it is not uncommon for botflies to burrow themselves into animals this time of year. They are unpleasant to find, but do little harm as their larvae can only survive in a live temporary host.

Pam Novak, the institute's director, removed the large botfly larvae from the chipmunk with tweezers. (Atlantic Wildlife Institute)

"It creates this little, what's called a warble, which is like a little area that kind of encapsulates the little larvae for this thing to actually feed off its host for like a month," Novak said.

"It's all part of its life cycle and it's this fun little creature that just lives out there."

After pulling the botfly out of the chipmunk's skin, Novak said they kept it for about a week as the chipmunk still showed signs of body depletion.

"He improved greatly, was eating well on his own, got all his mobility back, strength back, started showing regular nasty kind of behaviour which is what you want to see in a chipmunk," she said.

Novak said she has seen as many as three larvae be pulled out of a chipmunk at once. These kinds of parasites can attach to any animal that is not properly groomed, including household pets.

The AWI has had a series of animals ridden with bugs lately, including an eagle with lice and porcupines with mange.

"We're dealing with all sorts of little issues but definitely lots of creepy crawlies … it's always a fun mixed bag."

Pam Novak has been busy removing parasites from her furry and feathered friends at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. 8:50

With files from Shift