Barry Nobert

Landscape ecology of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (o. virginianus) with implications for chronic wasting disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal prion disease of cervids that continues to spread into new regions of Canada despite containment efforts. I examine the importance of landscape connectivity using circuit theory and source/sink habitats that are based on selection, survival and reproduction in order to assess CWD spread risk among deer in Alberta, Canada. I found for hunter-harvested deer that the likelihood of being CWD-positive was higher for mule deer than white-tailed deer and for deer in habitat associated with river drainages and areas more connected to previously detected CWD-positive deer. Source habitats differed between the two species primarily due to differences in habitat selection, with consequences for reproduction and hunting mortality in mule deer and natural mortality in white-tailed deer. My results will help wildlife managers prioritize areas for CWD monitoring and control, as well as contribute to the development of future spatially explicit disease spread models.