Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Pathogen exposure varies widely among sympatric populations of wild and domestic felids across the United States

September 10, 2015

Understanding how landscape, host, and pathogen traits contribute to disease exposure requires systematic evaluations of pathogens within and among host species and geographic regions. The relative importance of these attributes is critical for management of wildlife and mitigating domestic animal and human disease, particularly given rapid ecological changes, such as urbanization. We screened >1,000 samples from sympatric populations of puma (Puma concolor), bobcat (Lynx rufus) and domestic cat (Felis catus) across urban gradients in six sites, representing three regions, in North America for exposure to a representative suite of bacterial, protozoal and viral pathogens (Bartonella sp., Toxoplasma gondii, feline herpesvirus-1, feline panleukopenea virus, feline calicivirus, feline immunodeficiency virus). We evaluated prevalence within each species, and examined host trait and land cover determinants of exposure-providing an unprecedented analysis of factors relating to potential for infections in domesticated and wild felids. Prevalence differed among host species (highest for puma and lowest for domestic cat) and was greater for indirectly transmitted pathogens. Sex was inconsistently predictive of exposure to directly transmitted pathogens only, and age infrequently predictive of both direct and indirectly transmitted pathogens. Determinants of pathogen exposure were widely divergent between the wild felid species. For puma, suburban landuse predicted increased exposure to Bartonella sp. in southern California, and FHV-1 exposure increased near urban edges in Florida. This may suggest inter-specific transmission with domestic cats via flea vectors (California) and direct contact (Florida) around urban boundaries. Bobcats captured near urban areas had increased exposure to T. gondii in Florida, suggesting an urban source of prey. Bobcats captured near urban areas in Colorado and Florida had higher FIV exposure, possibly suggesting increased intra-specific interactions through pile-up of home ranges. Beyond these regional and pathogen specific relationships, proximity to the wildland urban interface did not generally increase the probability of disease exposure in wild or domestic felids, emphasizing the importance of local ecological determinants. Indeed, pathogen exposure was often negatively associated with the wildland urban interface for all felids. Our analyses suggest cross-species pathogen transmission events around this interface may be infrequent, but followed by self-sustaining propagation within the new host species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Pathogen exposure varies widely among sympatric populations of wild and domestic felids across the United States
DOI 10.1890/15-0445.1
Authors Scott Carver, Sarah N. Bevins, Michael R. Lappin, Erin E. Boydston, Lisa M. Lyren, Mathew W. Alldredge, Kenneth A. Logan, Linda L. Sweanor, Seth P.D. Riley, Laurel E.K. Serieys, Robert N. Fisher, T. Winston Vickers, Walter M. Boyce, Roy McBride, Mark C. Cunnigham, Megan Jennings, Jesse S. Lewis, Tamika Lunn, Kevin R. Crooks, Sue VandeWoude
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Applications
Series Number
Index ID 70157153
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center

Related Content