Lillian R. Morris, Jason K. Blackburn
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2016 EcoHealth
ABSTRACT: Infectious diseases that affect wildlife and livestock are challenging to manage and can lead to large-scale die-offs, economic losses, and threats to human health. The management of infectious diseases in wildlife and livestock is made easier with knowledge of disease risk across space and identifying stakeholders associated with high-risk landscapes. This study focuses on anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, risk to wildlife and livestock in Montana. There is a history of anthrax in Montana, but the spatial extent of disease risk and subsequent wildlife species at risk are not known. Our objective was to predict the potential geographic distribution of anthrax risk across Montana, identify wildlife species at risk and their distributions, and define stakeholders. We used an ecological niche model to predict the potential distribution of anthrax risk. We overlaid susceptible wildlife species distributions and land ownership delineations on our risk map. We found that there was an extensive region across Montana predicted as potential anthrax risk. These potentially risky landscapes overlapped the ranges of all 6 ungulate species considered in the analysis and livestock grazing allotments, and this overlap was on public and private land for all species. Our findings suggest that there is the potential for a multi-species anthrax outbreak on multiple landscapes across Montana. Our potential anthrax risk map can be used to prioritize landscapes for surveillance and for implementing livestock vaccination programs.
Read the full publication at EcoHealth.