Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 2005;69:32-38.


The objectives of this study were to estimate the prevalence of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) among deer and rabbits surrounding infected and noninfected Minnesota dairy farms using fecal culture, and to describe the frequency that farm management practices were used that could potentially lead to transmission of infection between these species. Fecal samples from cows and the cow environment were collected from 108 Minnesota dairy herds, and fecal pellets from free-ranging white-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbits were collected from locations surrounding 114 farms; all samples were tested using bacterial culture. In addition, a questionnaire was administered to 114 herd owners. Sixty-two percent of the dairy herds had at least 1 positive fecal pool or environmental sample. A total of 218 rabbit samples were collected from 90% of the herds, and 309 deer samples were collected from 47% of the herds. On 2 (4%) of the farms sampled, 1 deer fecal sample was MAP positive. Both farms had samples from the cow fecal pool and cow environment that were positive by culture. On 2 (2%) other farms, 1 rabbit fecal sample was positive by culture to MAP, with one of these farms having positive cow fecal pools and cow environmental samples. Pasture was used on 79% of the study farms as a grazing area for cattle, mainly for dry cows (75%) and bred or prebred heifers (87%). Of the 114 farms, 88 (77%) provided access to drylot for their cattle, mainly for milking cows (77/88; 88%) and bred heifers (87%). Of all study farms, 90 (79%) used some solid manure broadcasting on their crop fields. Of all 114 farms, the estimated probability of daily physical contact between cattle manure and deer or rabbits was 20% and 25%, respectively. Possible contact between cattle manure and deer or rabbits was estimated to occur primarily from March through December. The frequency of pasture or drylot use and manure spreading on crop fields may be important risk factors for transmission of MAP among dairy cattle, deer, and rabbits. Although the MAP prevalence among rabbits and deer is low, their role as MAP reservoirs should be considered.