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Talbot B.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Garant D.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Rioux Paquette S.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Mainguy J.,Service de la biodiversite et des maladies de la faune | Pelletier F.,Universite de Sherbrooke

Evaluating the permeability of potential barriers to movement, dispersal and gene exchanges can help describe spreading patterns of wildlife diseases. Here, we used landscape genetics methods to assess the genetic structure of the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), which is a frequent vector of rabies, a lethal zoonosis of great concern for public health. Our main objective was to identify landscape elements shaping the genetic structure of this species in Southern Québec, Canada, in an area where the raccoon rabies variant has been detected. We hypothesised that geographic distance and landscape barriers, such as highways and major rivers, would modulate genetic structure. We genotyped a total of 289 individuals sampled across a large area (22,000 km2) at nice microsatellite loci. Genetic structure analyses identified a single genetic cluster in the study area. Major rivers and highways, however, influenced the genetic relatedness among sampled individuals. Sex-specific analyses revealed that rivers significantly limited dispersal only for females while highways only had marginal effects. Rivers and highways did not significantly affect male dispersal. These results support the contention that female skunks are more philopatric than males. Overall, our results suggest that the effects of major rivers and highways on dispersal are sex-specific and rather weak and are thus unlikely to prevent the spread of rabies within and among striped skunk populations. © 2012 Talbot et al. Source

Fortin D.,Laval University | Buono P.-L.,University of Ontario Institute of Technology | Fortin A.,Laval University | Courbin N.,Laval University | And 4 more authors.
American Naturalist

The assessment of disturbance effects on wildlife and resulting mitigation efforts are founded on edge-effect theory. According to the classical view, the abundance of animals affected by human disturbance should increase monotonically with distance from disturbed areas to reach a maximum at remote locations. Here we show that distance-dependent movement taxis can skew abundance distributions toward disturbed areas. We develop an advection-diffusion model based on basic movement behavior commonly observed in animal populations and parameterize the model from observations on radio-collared caribou in a boreal ecosystem. The model predicts maximum abundance at 3.7 km from cutovers and roads. Consistently, aerial surveys conducted over 161,920 km2 showed that the relative probability of caribou occurrence displays nonmonotonic changes with the distance to anthropogenic features, with a peak occurring at 4.5 km away from these features. This aggregation near disturbed areas thus provides the predators of this top-down-controlled, threatened herbivore species with specific locations to concentrate their search. The edge-effect theory developed here thus predicts that human activities should alter animal distribution and food web properties differently than anticipated from the current paradigm. Consideration of such nonmonotonic response to habitat edges may become essential to successful wildlife conservation. © 2013 by The University of Chicago. Source

Rees E.E.,University of Montreal | Belanger D.,University of Montreal | Lelievre F.,Service de la biodiversite et des maladies de la faune | Cote N.,Direction de la Sante Animale et de lInspection des Viandes | Lambert L.,Institute National Of Sante Publique Du Quebec
Journal of Wildlife Management

Data from wildlife disease surveillance programs are used to inform implementation of disease control (e.g., vaccination, population reduction) in space and time. We developed an approach to increase detection of raccoon rabies in raccoons (Procyon lotor) and skunks (Mephitis mephitis) of Québec, Canada, and we examined the implications of using this approach for targeted surveillance. First we modeled the probability of a rabid animal relative to environmental characteristics of sampling locations. Rabid animals were more likely to be found in low-lying flat landscapes that had higher proportions of corn-forest edge habitat and hay agriculture, and that were within 20 km of one or more known rabies cases. From the model, we created 2 complementary risk maps to identify areas where rabid animals were most likely to be sampled. One map accounted for habitat and known rabies case locations, and can be used to define an infection zone from which surveillance can be targeted along the periphery to determine if disease is continuing to spread. The other map only accounted for habitat and can be used to locate areas most likely to contain rabid animals when the disease is present. In a further analysis we compared the 2 most successful methods for detecting raccoon rabies in Québec, given the disease was present. Government trapping operations (active surveillance) detected more cases in the short-term, but citizen notification (passive and enhanced) was more effective after 12 trapping days from which the initial rabies case was found. Our approach can benefit wildlife and public health agencies wanting to assess the disease status of regions by targeting surveillance to habitats most likely to contain infected animals and by defining the duration over which sampling methods are effective. Copyright © 2011 The Wildlife Society. Source

Rees E.E.,University of Montreal | Gendron B.,Bruno Gendron Consultant | Lelievre F.,Service de la biodiversite et des maladies de la faune | Cote N.,Direction de la Sante Animale et de lInspection des Viandes | Belanger D.,University of Montreal
International Journal of Health Geographics

Background: Protection of public health from rabies is informed by the analysis of surveillance data from human and animal populations. In Canada, public health, agricultural and wildlife agencies at the provincial and federal level are responsible for rabies disease control, and this has led to multiple agency-specific data repositories. Aggregation of agency-specific data into one database application would enable more comprehensive data analyses and effective communication among participating agencies. In Québec, RageDB was developed to house surveillance data for the raccoon rabies variant, representing the next generation in web-based database applications that provide a key resource for the protection of public health.Results: RageDB incorporates data from, and grants access to, all agencies responsible for the surveillance of raccoon rabies in Québec. Technological advancements of RageDB to rabies surveillance databases include 1) automatic integration of multi-agency data and diagnostic results on a daily basis; 2) a web-based data editing interface that enables authorized users to add, edit and extract data; and 3) an interactive dashboard to help visualize data simply and efficiently, in table, chart, and cartographic formats. Furthermore, RageDB stores data from citizens who voluntarily report sightings of rabies suspect animals. We also discuss how sightings data can indicate public perception to the risk of racoon rabies and thus aid in directing the allocation of disease control resources for protecting public health.Conclusions: RageDB provides an example in the evolution of spatio-temporal database applications for the storage, analysis and communication of disease surveillance data. The database was fast and inexpensive to develop by using open-source technologies, simple and efficient design strategies, and shared web hosting. The database increases communication among agencies collaborating to protect human health from raccoon rabies. Furthermore, health agencies have real-time access to a wide assortment of data documenting new developments in the raccoon rabies epidemic and this enables a more timely and appropriate response. © 2011 Rees et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Source

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