Date of Award
Winter feeding stations are used throughout the western US to reduce elk depredation of crops and haystacks on private lands. Many of the unintended effects of such artificial congregation remain unexamined, but generally, across species, locally increased host densities result in increased parasite loads. This adds physiological stress to individual animals and in game species such as elk it could reduce their value to sportsmen. Through laboratory analyses of fresh samples, we recorded nematode egg densities in elk feces collected during two periods ( early and late) in the supplementary feeding season. Mean nematode egg density remained fairly constant in fecal samples over these periods but the proportion of infected elk was significantly higher in the later stage of the feeding season. Results confirm that nematode loads carried by individual elk in this population during the study period were below the level at which clinical symptoms of morbidity would be expected. However, at the population level, the increased prevalence of nematode infection from early to late stages of supplementary feeding implies that the feeding station does facilitate parasite transmission.
Hughes, Morgan Jaromilla, "Effect of Aggregation at a Winter Feeding Station on Intestinal Parasite Load in Elk (Cervus canadensis)" (2015). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 548.
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Johan du Toit
Departmental Honors Advisor