The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative is a collection of highly qualified people within a cross-Canada network of partners and collaborators dedicated to wildlife health. Our Cooperative includes internationally renowned wildlife disease diagnosticians and researchers, experts in population health, skilled educators and experienced policy advisors. The CWHC is dedicated to generating knowledge needed to assess and manage wildlife health and working with others to ensure that knowledge gets put to use in a timely fashion.

At the core of the CWHC is a partnership linking Canada's five veterinary colleges and the British Columbia Animal Health Centre. Branching from that core is a network that stretches into the public and private sectors that allows us to access critical expertise needed to detect and assess wildlife health issues and make sure our results find their way to people who need to make decisions on wildlife management, wildlife use, public health and agriculture.


We provide a Canada-wide perspective on wildlife health at the same time as helping to identify and assess emerging problems at a local level. The CWHC facilitates and supports teams, programs and partnerships needed to meet this goal. We build capacity through training the next generation of experts and advocating for strategic investment in wildlife health. Our research creates new wildlife health information and identifies ways to translate that knowledge into action. All of these activities work toward the goal of creating awareness of the importance of wildlife health and providing credible and trustworthy information to affect positive change at a local, national and international level.


To promote and protect the health of wildlife and Canadians through leadership, partnership, investigation, and


A world that is safe and sustainable for wildlife and society.


Doug Freeman – WCVM – Chair
Ian Alexander – CFIA
Gord Beal - Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada
Carolyn Callaghan - CWF
Eric Boysen – OMNR – Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee Representative
Brett Elkin – GNWT
Harpreet Kochhar – CFIA
Scott McBurney – CWHC staff representative
Robert McLean - ECCC
Sue Milburn-Hopwood – CWS – Environment Canada
Gilles Seutin - Parks Canada
Jonathan Sleeman – NWDC – USGS
Craig Stephen - CWHC
Steven Sternthal – PHAC – Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
Patrick Zimmer - CWHC


Patrick Zimmer, CWHC National Office – Chair
Trent Bollinger, CWHC Western/Northern
Kevin Brown, CWHC National Office
Pierre-Yves Daoust, CWHC Atlantic
Chelsea Himsworth, CWHC BB
Claire Jardine, CWHC Ontario/Nunavut
Susan Kutz, CWHC Alberta
Stéphane Lair, CWHC Québec
Scott McBurney, Staff Representative
Craig Stephen, CWHC National Office


Assurances of wildlife health and the ability to detect emerging threats are vital CWHC outcomes. Our surveillance, research and risk assessments contribute to the necessary situational awareness required to provide assurances of no harm when none exists, in turn providing evidence of clean, safe and sustainable environments. Our national perspective of infectious diseases of wildlife helps assure access to international trade and markets.  Providing an internationally acclaimed standard of threat detection underlies prevention, response and recovery from emerging threats, thereby protecting our nation’s public health, conservation and economic activities.


Early warning, surge capacity that is adaptable to changing circumstances, and capacity building help Canada to prepare for emerging threats. The CWHC undertakes a range of activities across Canada to monitor and forecast impending events, interpret and communicate warnings, and prepare for rapid and appropriate responses. Our educational and training activities build capacity to maintain and expand these services in response to increasing needs. The information generated from our monitoring and research, as well as our risk/policy assessments and knowledge reviews provides health intelligence, informing both policy and practice.


Converting knowledge into action is key for any health program and is critical for turning surveillance and research into action. The CWHC network detects and communicates signals of wildlife health with knowledge producers and users in a timely fashion. The CWHC is the national wildlife health focal point, coordinating and connecting federal, provincial, territorial, academic and private programs, priorities and information. CWHC members contribute to numerous working groups and committees, serving as national sources of expertise and supporting local management programs. We have been at the forefront of responses to new diseases, working to limit their impacts on wildlife and Canadians.


The CWHC provides a trusted view of the state of wildlife health and together with our partners identifies strategic priorities. Our outputs raise awareness of emerging health issues and the need for action, as in the case of salamander chytrid disease. Creating awareness of wildlife health issues and influencing priorities and perceptions helps to shape future wildlife health programs. We generate evidence and insights to identify priority actions against current threats, such as chronic wasting disease, as well as to prepare us for impending threats, such as climate change. National strategy development coupled with program and policy evaluation ensures that emerging and important issues are adequately considered in plans to protect wildlife health.


The OIE global network of expertise supports the development and the excellence of animal health sciences, animal welfare standards and veterinary public health services. Founded in 1924 the OIE is an intergovernmental organization and is recognized as a reference organization by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It ensures the scientific foundation of the standards and guidelines adopted by OIE Member Countries are recognized as intergovernmental references for disease control methods and animal welfare throughout the world.

As of 2014, this OIE global network includes 247 Reference Laboratories covering 117 diseases in 38 countries and 49 Collaborating Centre's covering 46 topics in 26 countries. These institutes are selected by the relevant elected Specialist Commissions of the OIE according to their scientific excellence and then proposed for adoption by the World Assembly of OIE Delegates.

In 2007 the CWHC was officially recognized as an OIE collaborating centre with expertise in wildlife disease surveillance and monitoring, epidemiology, and management. In 2012 the CWHC and the USGS National Wildlife Health Centre (NWHC) became a joint OIE collaborating centre with the NWHC providing complementary expertise in research, diagnosis and surveillance of wildlife pathogens.

The CWHC assists the office of Canada's Chief Veterinary Officer to report to the OIE on occurrences of diseases in Canadian wildlife. The CWHC is providing education programs to OIE wildlife focal points in association with the Regional Offices and the Central Bureau. In recent years, the CWHC has provided education programs, assistance and advice to several OIE-member countries, including PR China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Japan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Kenya, Mozambique and the United States of America.


Our logo, the Gray Jay in flight, conveys action and forward momentum analogous to the organization at large. The Gray Jay is uniquely a Canadian bird, resilient and diverse in its habitat but not flashy; sentiments which truly represent the values of our organization. It shows that the CWHC’s focus extends to a range of species large and small and wildlife health issues prominent and lesser known.

In addition to our brand new logo, we have also refined our focus and messaging in order to achieve our ultimate vision of creating a world that is safe and sustainable for wildlife and society. As part of this vision, our mission is to promote and protect the health of wildlife and Canadians through leadership, partnership, investigation and action.


The Gray Jay is a member of the Corvidae family (crows and jays) found across most of Canada. Known as the Whiskey Jack to some (from the Algonquian word Wisakedjak and other variations), and formerly as the Canada Jay, this resilient bird is a familiar visitor to campsites and traplines in the boreal forest. Their boldness and skill in collecting food has earned them several nicknames such as “camp robber” and “moose bird” and it is not uncommon to see a daring individual hopping onto a human hand or knee to retrieve a snack. Their diet consists of anything they can find, including berries, insects, and carrion. They spend most of the summer hoarding food for the winter, during which they remain as permanent residents throughout their range, including the northernmost reaches of the boreal forest. Gray Jays lay their eggs in March; an amazing feat considering the frigid temperatures that characterize most of their range at this time of year! This hardiness was one of the qualities that made the Gray Jay a compelling choice to represent our organization since its inception as the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre in 1992.

The Gray Jay is not a threatened species, and populations are stable across most of their range; nevertheless, there are a few health issues affecting these birds. Climate change is well documented to cause range shifts in various species and the distribution of Gray Jays has undergone a contraction in the southernmost reaches of their range. An example of such a range reduction has been documented in Algonquin Park, Ontario, where researchers have been studying Gray Jays for several decades. These researchers suggest that declines are due to reduced preservation of food caches in warmer winter temperatures.

West Nile Virus is another health issue affecting Gray Jays. Many birds carry this virus with seemingly no ill effects, but Gray Jays and other members of the Corvidae family are particularly susceptible and tend to die quickly once infected. The virus has not caused noticeable population declines over much of their range, but researchers in Colorado have reported major Gray Jay population decreases in years of particularly high West Nile virus activity.
Because of their tendency to eat carrion, Gray Jays are also susceptible to accidental death caused by human activities. Inadvertent poisonings relating to pest or predator control activities are one example as are incidental trappings due to Gray Jays feeding on baited traps set for fur bearing species.

Interestingly, Gray Jays may play a positive role in another important wildlife health issue: winter tick. Gray Jays, as well as their Raven relatives, have been documented feeding on winter ticks, and there are anecdotal reports of them picking ticks off the backs of moose. As winter tick is a serious issue in moose that can result in severe hair loss, leading to starvation and death, this gives us one more reason to appreciate the Gray Jay!