Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin 40(2):394–399; 2016
Effective delivery of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals to wildlife populations is needed when zoonotic diseases pose a risk to public health and natural resources or have considerable economic consequences. The objective of our study was to develop a bait-distribution strategy for potential delivery of oral bovine tuberculosis (bTB) vaccine to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) where deer are reservoirs for the disease. During 17 February and 2 March 2011, we created a grid of experimental bait stations (n=64) on Sandhill Wildlife Management Area, Wisconsin, USA, to assess station densities needed to attract and deliver placebo baits to free-ranging white-tailed deer and look for associations among deer density, number of bait stations per deer, and bait consumption. We placed 1 L of commercially available alfalfa cubes at bait stations 652m apart, and monitored stations with motion-activated cameras for 5 days to document visitation and consumption by deer and nontarget species. Deer discovered 38% of all bait stations within 37 hr, on average (SE=3.91 hr), and consumed variable amounts of bait at each station. Deer were documented in 94% of all photographs of wildlife at bait stations. We found no correlation between bait consumption and deer density or the number of bait stations per deer. We provide the first information on use of baits by free-ranging deer and nontarget wildlife to eventually vaccinate deer against bTB at a landscape level. The results of this study can further the development of strategies in delivery of pharmaceuticals to free-ranging white-tailed deer.