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Keywords:

  • Bovine tuberculosis;
  • chronic wasting disease;
  • elk;
  • hunter-kill;
  • mortality;
  • protected area;
  • resource selection function;
  • selection ratio

Abstract

Endemic and emerging diseases are rarely uniform in their spatial distribution or prevalence among cohorts of wildlife. Spatial models that quantify risk-driven differences in resource selection and hunter mortality of animals at fine spatial scales can assist disease management by identifying high-risk areas and individuals. We used resource selection functions (RSFs) and selection ratios (SRs) to quantify sex- and age-specific resource selection patterns of collared (n = 67) and hunter-killed (n = 796) nonmigratory elk (Cervus canadensis manitobensis) during the hunting season between 2002 and 2012, in southwestern Manitoba, Canada. Distance to protected area was the most important covariate influencing resource selection and hunter-kill sites of elk (AICw = 1.00). Collared adult males (which are most likely to be infected with bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) and chronic wasting disease) rarely selected for sites outside of parks during the hunting season in contrast to adult females and juvenile males. The RSFs showed selection by adult females and juvenile males to be negatively associated with landscape-level forest cover, high road density, and water cover, whereas hunter-kill sites of these cohorts were positively associated with landscape-level forest cover and increasing distance to streams and negatively associated with high road density. Local-level forest was positively associated with collared animal locations and hunter-kill sites; however, selection was stronger for collared juvenile males and hunter-killed adult females. In instances where disease infects a metapopulation and eradication is infeasible, a principle goal of management is to limit the spread of disease among infected animals. We map high-risk areas that are regularly used by potentially infectious hosts but currently underrepresented in the distribution of kill sites. We present a novel application of widely available data to target hunter distribution based on host resource selection and kill sites as a promising tool for applying selective hunting to the management of transmissible diseases in a game species.