US shuts popular Lake Tahoe sites after bubonic plague discovered in chipmunks

The US Forest Service has announced it is closing several sites at California’s scenic South Lake Tahoe after discovering bubonic plague in the chipmunk population.

The agency announced this week that “based on positive plague tests” in the rodent population around hiking areas, it would close popular hiking spots including Taylor Creek Visitor Center and nearby Kiva Beach through Friday, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

According to the forest service, plague can be spread by ”squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild rodents”, specifically by fleas that come in contact with infected animals and go on to bite humans.

The service, however, said that a plague in rodents at higher elevations is not that rare, and a spread to humans was easily preventable with a few precautions.

“Bubonic plague is naturally occurring in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and this region,” said Lisa Herron, a public affairs specialist for the agency’s Lake Tahoe basin management unit, which runs the closed facilities.

“It’s something that visitors need to take precautions about, but it’s not something that they need to worry about.”

She said keeping pets at home, or at least on leash and away from rodent burrows, was one important strategy. But visitors should also stay away from chipmunks and squirrels and report any that are acting strange or lethargic to authorities.

The federal agency’s announcement on Facebook said “vector control” workers would complete “eradication treatments” in the area on Thursday in hopes of reopening the sites and the surrounding hiking areas by Friday.

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