Fleas Carrying Bubonic Plague Forces California Parks to Close

FILE – In this June 18, 2017, file photo, Chipmunks congregate near the ninth hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. There has been a spike in New England’s chipmunk population during the summer of 2020. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

You may want to reconsider going off-trail in Tahoe this weekend.

Officials have announced that three Lake Tahoe parking areas — at Tallac Historic Beach, Kiva Beach/Picnic area, and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center — will be temporarily closed after fleas tested positive for the bubonic plague.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service is working with the California Department of Public Health to treat the affected areas ahead of Labor Day weekend. The infected fleas were found on chipmunks, ground squirrels, or other wild rodents.

A South Lake Tahoe resident recently tested positive for the bubonic plague, the first case in California since 2015. He may have contracted the disease while walking his dog and being bitten by an infected flea, the Associated Press reported.

While bubonic plague is endemic to the Sierra Nevada area and can be easily treated if found early, officials recommended that visitors take these precautions

— Stay on trails
— If possible, leave pets at home
— If pets must come along, keep them from exploring rodent burrows
— Do not touch sick/dead rodents
— Report unusual observations to rangers
— Do not camp, sleep/rest near animal burrows
— Wear long pants tucked into boots to reduce exposure to fleas
— Apply insect repellent to socks/pant cuffs

The affected parking areas are expected to reopen in time for Labor Day weekend.

To stay updated on when the parking areas will reopen, follow the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on Facebook

SOURCE: SF Gate, Fiona Lee