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Striped Skunk Relative Abundance in Flagstaff, Arizona: Implications for Rabies Spread and the Current TVR Program

  • Author(s): Maestas, Jesse M.
  • Theimer, Tad C.
  • Hausig, Krista M.
  • Bergman, David L.
  • et al.
Abstract

Potentially fatal wildlife diseases like rabies are of increasing concern, due to human effects on the environment that could alter wildlife behavior and population dynamics in ways that increase disease prevalence. Wildlife population abundance is a key factor, affecting both disease outbreak and rate of disease spread, and understanding how population abundance changes across landscapes is crucial for developing predictive models to control and manage wildlife diseases. We investigated how urbanization in Flagstaff, AZ influenced skunk population abundance by simultaneously trapping 6 pairs of suburban and wildland study sites for 200 trap-nights between June and September 2011. The number of unique skunks captured at the 6 suburban locations ranged from 3-14 (mean = 6.5) while the number trapped at the 6 wildland sites ranged from 0-2 (mean = 0.5). We also reviewed data gathered as part of the trap-vaccinate-release (TVR) program carried out from 2004-2010 by USDA APHIS Wildlife Services to estimate population sizes and the percentage of the population vaccinated. Our estimates of the percentage of the population vaccinated in any one year ranged from 11%-23%, below percentages reported in the literature as necessary to prevent disease spread. Overall, these data indicate that the potential for disease spread was greatest within the suburban matrix and relatively low in surrounding wildlands and that intensified annual TVR programs would be necessary to maintain high enough percentages of immunized animals to achieve effective herd immunity.

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