U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Preventive Veterinary Medicine 135 (2016) 28-36


U.S. Government Work


Direct and indirect contacts among individuals drive transmission of infectious disease. When multiple interacting species are susceptible to the same pathogen, risk assessment must include all potential host species. Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an example of a disease that can be transmitted among several wildlife species and to cattle, although the potential role of several wildlife species in spillback to cattle remains unclear. To better understand the complex network of contacts and factors driving disease transmission, we fitted proximity logger collars to beef and dairy cattle (n = 37), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; n=29), raccoon (Procyon lotor; n=53), and Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana; n=79) for 16 months in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, USA. We determined inter- and intra-species direct and indirect contact rates. Data on indirect contact was calculated when collared animals visited stationary proximity loggers placed at cattle feed and water resources. Most contact between wildlife species and cattle was indirect, with the highest contact rates occurring between raccoons and cattle during summer and fall. Nearly all visits (>99%) to cattle feed and water sources were by cattle, whereas visitation to stored cattle feed was dominated by deer and raccoon (46% and 38%, respectively). Our results suggest that indirect contact resulting from wildlife species visiting cattle-related resources could pose a risk of disease transmission to cattle and deserves continued attention with active mitigation.

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