Impact of landcover composition and density of localized deer culling sites on chronic wasting disease prevalence

Ting Tian, Samniqueka J Halsey, Nelda A Rivera, William M Brown, Jan E Novakofski, Nohra E Mateus-Pinilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the prion disease of the Cervidae family, has been managed in Illinois deer since it was first detected in the Fall of 2002. Management uses a state-sponsored localized focus culling (LFC) program, implemented as close as possible to previously identified CWD-infected locations (TRSs (township/range/section)). We used hunter-harvest and LFC deer from 4621 and 435 unique TRSs, respectively, over 16 years of surveillance and management (2003-2017). We divided the study area into groups of TRSs with similar landcover types (SPLT) to assess CWD hunter-harvest prevalence at LFC and non-LFC sites by landcover composition. We also evaluate the importance of the month when LFC was implemented and determine whether the density of LFC sites or the total number of deer removed by LFC predicts hunter-harvest CWD prevalence. The percentage of CWD positive samples from hunters was lower than for LFC samples (for the study area and SPLTs). The probability of CWD increased by 5.24% for all the SPLT groups combined in the study area, by 4.6% from areas without an LFC nearby, and by 1.21% for areas with a prior LFC nearby. For all the TRS in the study area, low CWD odds (<1) in hunter-harvest deer were found in three SPLTs, in two SPLTs within TRSs with non-LFC, and five in five SPLTs within TRSs with LFC. The results suggest the importance of accounting for landcover composition to implement and sustain management in habitats with a higher risk of CWD. Our findings support that hunter-harvest alone cannot control CWD and the critical need for continued LFC intervention. For the whole study area-regardless of landcover composition-LFC in January was more important in decreasing hunter-harvest CWD prevalence than when LFC was conducted in March. However, the LFC conducted in January, February, and March were equally important when evaluating the month per habitat. Furthermore, the density of LFC sites in proximity to known infected areas is a better predictor of CWD than the number of deer removed by LFC, suggesting that increasing the density of LFC sites has a greater impact on CWD. The proximity of LFC to infected areas helps control CWD. Ultimately, landowners' and hunters' collaborations with the CWD surveillance and management programs are critical to protecting the Illinois wild deer herd; this study demonstrates their ongoing and valuable contributions to protecting this natural and public resource.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105774
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online dateOct 4 2022
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • CWD management
  • Hunter harvest
  • Landscape composition
  • Localized focus culling
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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