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Ecology of Chronic Wasting Disease in Nebraska


My goal is to elucidate the underlying ecological mechanisms associated with the distribution of CWD in the environment. In particular, for mule deer and white-tailed deer in riparian areas across Nebraska, we will: <ol>
<li> determine the prevalence of CWD <li> predict changes in population parameters across time <li> measure movements and home ranges <li> evaluate selection of habitat <li> estimate transmission rates associated with fall scraping behavior <li> predict the extent and rate of spread of CWD. </ol>

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a recent, fatal, naturally occurring transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that affects members of the deer family in Nebraska and elsewhere. Relatively little is known about the ecology, transmission, and impacts of CWD, yet some scientists predict that as prevalence rises, populations could be driven to extinction in less than 100 years. We will conduct research on the movements, population dynamics, social behavior, and habitat selection of mule deer and white-tailed deer in Nebraska. Data will be used to generate epidemiological models that will predict the rate of spread of CWD in mule deer and white-tailed deer across the state. Our results will be used to develop testable strategies to control the spread of CWD in North America.

APPROACH: We will conduct the study in the Missouri River Valley in eastern Nebraska and the North Platte River Valley in western Nebraska. We will calculate the prevalence rates of CWD for each year. We will estimate the densities and species/sex/age ratios of deer in each study area. We will capture over 700 deer, mark them with radio collars, and locate them at least three times per week. We will estimate daily survival and cause-specific mortality of deer. We will generate locations of deer from telemetry data and will examine variation home ranges, core areas, and movement patterns. We will model the probability of resource use given a choice of available resources. We will use motion-activated infrared cameras to collect information on deer at selected scrapes. We will model contact rates of deer based on proximity and intensity indices and will model transmission rates associated with fall scraping behavior. We will develop individual-based models of disease transmission for mule deer, white-tailed deer, and the two species combined that incorporate information from all of the above objectives.

Hygnstrom, Scott
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
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