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Keywords:

  • baiting;
  • Baylisascaris procyonis;
  • Didelphis virginiana;
  • disease mitigation;
  • Procyon lotor;
  • raccoon;
  • raccoon roundworm;
  • remote camera;
  • Virginia opossum

ABSTRACT

Raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis), a common gastrointestinal parasite of the raccoon (Procyon lotor), has been implicated in population declines of Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister). Medicinal baiting is a viable tool in wildlife disease management although unique challenges exist for pathogenic systems in which the host can be immediately re-infected following treatment. Our goals were to evaluate the efficacy of using monthly distribution of anthelmintic baits to reduce the prevalence of B. procyonis infection in raccoons and to quantify patterns and rates of bait acceptance among populations repeatedly exposed to medicinal baits. We distributed baits monthly at a density of 200/km2 throughout 300-m buffer areas surrounding woodrat habitats in Indiana. We conducted raccoon latrine surveys annually to quantify the effect of treatment on roundworm prevalence and used remote cameras to identify the species contacting baits and determine the rate at which baits were removed. We observed declines in B. procyonis prevalence in response to treatment, but our ability to resolve statistical differences was limited by low pretreatment prevalence and high annual variability. Baits were removed rapidly from camera stations with 60% taken within 24 hours, 80% within 48 hours, and 90% within 72 hours. Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) removed 51% of baits whereas raccoons removed 44%. Identification of opossums as the predominant consumer of baits emphasizes the limitations imposed by non-target bait consumption for mitigation of B. procyonis and other wildlife diseases. The rapid removal of baits despite repeated bait exposure suggests that habituation did not result in bait aversion and fishmeal baits are a viable delivery system for mitigation of raccoon-borne diseases requiring repeated treatments. Similar treatment measures may facilitate conservation of Allegheny woodrats in habitats with high rates of B. procyonis-related mortality and could be used to reduce human exposure to this zoonotic parasite. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.