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Identifying priority chronic wasting disease surveillance areas for mule deer in Montana

June 19, 2015

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal prion disease that affects a variety of ungulate species including mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). As of 2014, no CWD cases had been reported in free-ranging ungulates in Montana. However, nearby cases in Canada, Wyoming, and the Dakotas indicated that the disease was encroaching on Montana's borders. Mule deer are native and common throughout Montana, and they represent a significant portion of the total hunter-harvested cervids in the state. The arrival of CWD in Montana may have significant ecosystem and socioeconomic impacts as well as potential consequences for wildlife management. We used 18,879 mule deer locations from 892 individual deer collected during 1975–2011 and modeled habitat selection for 7 herds in 5 of the 7 wildlife management regions in Montana. We estimated resource selection functions (RSF) in a Bayesian framework to predict summer and winter habitat preferences for mule deer. We estimated deer abundance from flyover counts for each region, and used the RSF predictions as weights to distribute the deer across the region. We then calculated the distance to the nearest known infected herds. We predicted areas of high risk of CWD infection in mule deer as areas with densities above the median density estimate and within the lowest quartile of distances to known infected herds. We identified these areas, the southeast corner of Montana and the north-central border near Alberta and Saskatchewan, as priority areas for CWD surveillance and management efforts. 

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Identifying priority chronic wasting disease surveillance areas for mule deer in Montana
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.914
Authors Robin E. Russell, Justin Gude, N.J. Anderson, Jennifer M. Ramsey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Series Number
Index ID 70156185
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center

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