Shockingly large parasite removed from chipmunk by veterinarian
Chipmunks are adorable little creatures that are easily tamed. They are delight to homeowners and cottagers. They are beautiful with their striped fur and tiny little faces and hands. Like a slender hamster that moves at twice the speed, they almost seem like pets once they get used to humans. Almost everyone has experienced the joy of hand feeding one of these animals. They are trusting and friendly and will climb on people for a peanut or other snack.
But Chipmunks in North America have their share of problems. They need to be wary of all sorts of predators like hawks, weasels, foxes, and cats. And like any other animal, they also have to worry about parasites. One of the most disgusting parasites that they are likely to encounter is the Bot Fly, or Cuterebra Fly. These insects lay their eggs on the ground near the burrow of a rodent such as a rabbit or chipmunk. The animal picks up the egg as it brushes past and the heat from its body causes the egg to hatch. The larva will then seek a place in the nose or around the neck of the host animal. There, it will burrow into the skin and begin to feed and grow. Although it is more common for this to happen with rodents, it commonly occurs with dogs and cats too, along with other animals.
The maggot will usually leave a breathing hole which oozes fluid and it appears like a round, open wound. The larvae will grow for 3 to 8 weeks in the infected host. In cats, these larvae can migrate to the brain and cause a lot of serious problems. Although rarely fatal when found under the skin, like the one on this chipmunk, they are large, effective parasites that can rob a little creature of health and energy. They are also extremely disgusting creatures.
This chipmunk is one of a family that live at a cottage in Parry Sound, Ontario. The cottage is owned by a veterinarian who loves all animals, including wildlife. When her young children spotted the chipmunk with what appeared to be a lump and small wound on its side, they told her what they had seen. Being certain that it was a Cuterebra, they managed to trap the chipmunk easily with a peanut and plastic bin. The little fellow was then placed inside a pillow case so that he could be restrained gently. Cutting a small hole in the pillowcase allowed access to the chipmunk's side so that the doctor could pull the maggot out with forceps.
The chipmunk did not need anesthetic since there was already a hole in its side and the maggot could be slowly out. The hole left behind is a gaping cavity that is prone to infection. The veterinarian flushed and cleaned the wound and the chipmunk was released. Although he was happy to be free again, he was annoyed enough that he refused to take the peanut that they offered. He scurried away but returned soon after, collecting free peanuts happily, as usual.
The wound healed over the next few days and the chipmunk was perfectly fine. Bot Fly larva, or Cuterebras are so loathsome that even this seasoned veterinarian finds them repulsive. Because they look just like small wounds until the maggot emerges, they are often seen, but not recognized in animals, including your pets!