Chronic wasting disease: Transmission mechanisms and the possibility of harvest management

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  • We develop a model of CWD management by nonselective deer harvest, currently the most feasible approach available for managing CWD in wild populations. We use the model to explore the effects of 6 common harvest strategies on disease prevalence and to identify potential optimal harvest policies for reducing disease prevalence without population collapse. The model includes 4 deer categories (juveniles, adult females, younger adult males, older adult males) that may be harvested at different rates, a food-based carrying capacity, which influences juvenile survival but not adult reproduction or survival, and seasonal force of infection terms for each deer category under differing frequency-dependent transmission dynamics resulting from environmental and direct contact mechanisms. Numerical experiments show that the interval of transmission coefficients β where the disease can be controlled is generally narrow and efficiency of a harvest policy to reduce disease prevalence depends crucially on the details of the disease transmission mechanism, in particular on the intensity of disease transmission to juveniles and the potential differences in the behavior of older and younger males that influence contact rates. Optimal harvest policy to minimize disease prevalence for each of the assumed transmission mechanisms is shown to depend on harvest intensity. Across mechanisms, a harvest that focuses on antlered deer, without distinguishing between age classes reduces disease prevalence most consistently, whereas distinguishing between young and older antlered deer produces higher uncertainty in the harvest effects on disease prevalence. Our results show that, despite uncertainties, a modelling approach can determine classes of harvest strategy that are most likely to be effective in combatting CWD.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2016 Potapov et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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    • Potapov, Alex, Merrill, Evelyn, Pybus, Margo, & Lewis, Mark A. (2016). Chronic wasting disease: Transmission mechanisms and the possibility of harvest management. PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0151039 [20 pages].
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