The effects of management practices on the spread and impact of parasites and infectious diseases in wildlife and domestic animals are of increasing concern worldwide, particularly in cases where management of wild species can influence disease spill-over into domestic animals. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA, winter supplemental feeding of Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus) may enhance parasite and disease transmission by aggregating elk on feedgrounds. In this study, we tested the effect of supplemental feeding on gastrointestinal parasite infection in elk by comparing fecal egg/oocyst counts of fed and unfed elk. We collected fecal samples from fed and unfed elk at feedground and control sites from January to April 2006, and screened all samples for parasites. Six different parasite types were identified, and 48.7% of samples were infected with at least one parasite. Gastrointenstinal (GI) nematodes (Nematoda: Strongylida), Trichuris spp., and coccidia were the most common parasites observed. For all three of these parasites, fecal egg/oocyst counts increased from January to April. Supplementally fed elk had significantly higher GI nematode egg counts than unfed elk in January and February, but significantly lower counts in April. These patterns suggest that supplemental feeding may both increase exposure and decrease susceptibility of elk to GI nematodes, resulting in differences in temporal patterns of egg shedding between fed and unfed elk.
|Title||Effects of supplemental feeding on gastrointestinal parasite infection in Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus elaphus): Preliminary observations|
|Authors||Alicia M. Hines, Vanessa O. Ezenwa, Paul C. Cross, Jared D. Rogerson|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Veterinary Parasitology|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center|
Paul Cross, Ph.D.
Paul Cross, Ph.D.