SEER Lab models bull elk habitat and spatial overlap with anthrax risk

SEER Lab models bull elk habitat and spatial overlap with anthrax risk

SEER Lab doctoral student Lillian Morris and Dr. Jason Blackburn, SEER Lab Director, have co-authored a new study with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Turner Enterprises biologists on bull elk resource selection using GPS telemetry data and spatial modeling. Predictions of elk habitat use were compared to ecological niche model-based estimates of where Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, is mostly to persist in the environment. Coupled, these models provide a first estimate of anthrax risk for elk that can be used to prioritize anthrax surveillance in Southwestern Montana. This work was partially supported by a NIH/NSF EEID Grant to SEER Lab. This work is part of Lili’s doctoral dissertation in the Department of Geography at UF.

Check out the new paper here http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jwmg.1016/abstract;jsessionid=F2499C3835AED4E871BA0DCA43151928.f03t04?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=

JWM ARTICLE ABSTRACT

Anthrax, caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis, is a zoonotic disease that affects humans and animals throughout the world. In North America, anthrax outbreaks occur in livestock and wildlife species. Vaccine administration in wildlife is untenable; the most effective form of management is surveillance and decontamination of carcasses. Successful management is critical because untreated carcasses can create infectious zones increasing risk for other susceptible hosts. We studied the bacterium in a re-emerging anthrax zone in southwest Montana. In 2008, a large anthrax epizootic primarily affected a domestic bison (Bison bison) herd and the male segment of a free-ranging elk (Cervus elaphus) herd in southwestern Montana. Following the outbreak, we initiated a telemetry study on elk to evaluate resource selection during the anthrax season to assist with anthrax management. We used a mixed effects generalized linear model (GLM) to estimate resource selection by male elk, and we mapped habitat preferences across the landscape. We overlaid preferred habitats on ecological niche model-based estimates of B. anthracis presence. We observed significant overlap between areas with a high predicted probability of male elk selection and B. anthracis potential. These potentially risky areas of elk and B. anthracis overlap were broadly spread over public and private lands. Future outbreaks in the region are probable, and this analysis identified the spatial extent of the risk area in the region, which can be used to prioritize anthrax surveillance. © 2015 The Wildlife Society.