How does supplementary feeding affect endoparasite infection in wild boar?
Supplementary feeding is widely used in game management but may aid the transmission of parasites. Firstly, feeding sites attract animals and may be regarded as high-risk areas for parasite transmission. Secondly, high host population densities resulting from and supported by supplementary feeding, as well as accumulation of parasites in the environment, may increase parasite prevalence. Our aim was to investigate whether host density or the number of feeding sites drives endoparasite infection in an Estonian wild boar (Sus scrofa) population. For this, we collected wild boar faeces from forests, and soil samples from supplementary feeding sites in central and south-eastern Estonia. The role of host density and number of feeding sites on both the risk and mean abundance of endoparasite infection was modelled using generalized linear models (GLM). The presence of biohelminths in faecal samples was associated with both wild boar and feeding site density, whereas the presence of Eimeria sp. oocysts in faecal samples was only associated with wild boar density. Helminth eggs were found more often from the soil of active and abandoned feeding sites than from control areas. This could reflect parasitic contamination or indicate that supplementary feeding sites are suitable habitat for soil-dwelling nematodes. These results suggest that the effects of supplementary feeding on parasite prevalence in wild boar are mediated by the characteristics of parasite life cycles.
KeywordsEimeria Helminths Metastrongylus Soil Strongyloides Sus scrofa
This work was supported by the State Forest Management Centre and the Estonian Research Council (grant IUT-2032). We are grateful to John Davison for proof-reading the manuscript and providing useful comments.
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