Deer density and disease prevalence influence transmission of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer

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Host-parasite dynamics and strategies for managing infectious diseases of wildlife depend on the functional relationship between disease transmission rates and host density. However, the disease transmission function is rarely known for free-living wildlife, leading to uncertainty regarding the impacts of diseases on host populations and effective control actions. We evaluated the influence of deer density, landscape features, and soil clay content on transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in young (<2- year-old) white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in south-central Wisconsin, USA. We evaluated how frequency-dependent, density-dependent, and intermediate transmission models predicted CWD incidence rates in harvested yearling deer. An intermediate transmission model, incorporating both disease prevalence and density of infected deer, performed better than simple density- and frequencydependent models. Our results indicate a combination of social structure, non-linear relationships between infectious contact and deer density, and distribution of disease among groups are important factors driving CWD infection in young deer. The landscape covariates % deciduous forest cover and forest edge density also were positively associated with infection rates, but soil clay content had no measurable influences on CWD transmission. Lack of strong density-dependent transmission rates indicates that controlling CWD by reducing deer density will be difficult. The consequences of non-linear disease transmission and aggregation of disease on cervid populations deserves further consideration. © 2013 Storm et al.




Storm, D. J., Samuel, M. D., Rolley, R. E., Shelton, P., Keuler, N. S., Richards, B. J., & Van Deelen, T. R. (2013). Deer density and disease prevalence influence transmission of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer. Ecosphere, 4(1).

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