Predicting the spread of wildlife disease is critical for identifying populations at risk, targeting surveillance and designing proactive management programmes. We used a landscape genetics approach to identify landscape features that influenced gene flow and the distribution of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Wisconsin white-tailed deer. CWD prevalence was negatively correlated with genetic differentiation of study area deer from deer in the area of disease origin (core-area). Genetic differentiation was greatest, and CWD prevalence lowest, in areas separated from the core-area by the Wisconsin River, indicating that this river reduced deer gene flow and probably disease spread. Features of the landscape that influence host dispersal and spatial patterns of disease can be identified based on host spatial genetic structure. Landscape genetics may be used to predict high-risk populations based on their genetic connection to infected populations and to target disease surveillance, control and preventative activities.
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