European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 127–135 | Cite as

Predicting the status of wild deer as hosts of Mycobacterium bovis infection in Britain

Original Paper


Control of livestock diseases can become complicated when wild animals are involved. The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is considered the principle wildlife host of Mycobacterium bovis (which causes bovine tuberculosis, bTB) in Great Britain and Ireland, but wild deer have also been implicated. Whether wild deer are likely to perpetuate bTB in cattle depends on the exposure risks they pose, the mode of pathogen transmission, the distances over which the disease can be transported and whether they can maintain infection within their own populations independently of other sources. We evaluated the likely host status of each of four species of wild British deer (red, roe, fallow and Reeves' muntjac) and the badger across a range of densities typically observed in Britain by manipulating the reproductive number equation proposed by Anderson and May (1991). We estimate that roe deer almost certainly act as spillover hosts at densities lower than 30 km−2, red deer below 16 km−2, muntjac below 6 km−2, fallow below 4 km−2 and the badger below 2 km−2. We also estimate that muntjac will almost certainly act as maintenance hosts at densities above 56 km−2, fallow above 47 km−2 and badgers above 24 km−2. For densities between these values, we cannot be certain of the host status of these species, and for red and roe deer we cannot be certain of host status under most natural conditions typically experienced in parts of Britain experiencing high incidence of bTB in cattle. However, enhanced transmission rates resulting from artificially high densities such as might be experienced at supplementary feeding sites may be sufficient to promote independent maintenance of infection. We were not able to confidently assign host status to any species over a wide range of densities, but conclude that this is likely to reflect reality, where host status may be affected as much by, for example, demographic fluctuations as it is by population density. Our results imply densities below which populations of wild deer inhabiting cattle bTB hotspots ought to be maintained in order to control the possibility of them perpetuating the cycle of intra- and interspecific M. bovis transmission.


Deer Badger Mycobacterium bovis Monte Carlo simulation Tuberculosis 


  1. Acevedo P, Ward AI, Real R, Smith GC (2010) Assessing biogeographical relationships in a multi-species system using favourability functions: a case study on British deer. Divers Distrib 16:515–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson RM, May RM (1991) Infectious diseases in humans. Dynamics and control. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Barlow ND (1991) A spatially aggregated disease/host model of bovine TB in New Zealand possum populations. J Appl Ecol 28:777–793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barlow ND (2000) Non-linear transmission and simple models for bovine tuberculosis. J Anim Ecol 69:703–713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caley P, Hone J (2005) Assessing the host disease status of wildlife and the implications for disease control: Mycobacterium bovis infection in feral ferrets. J Appl Ecol 42:708–719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carter SP, Roy SS, Cowan DP, Massei G, Smith GC, Ji W, Rossi S, Woodroffe R, Wilson GJ, Delahay RJ (2009) Options for the control of disease 2: targeting hosts. In: Delahay RJ, Smith GC, Hutchings MR (eds) Management of disease in wild mammals. Springer, Tokyo, pp 121–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Central Science Laboratory (2006) A quantitative risk assessment on the role of wild deer in the perpetuation of TB in cattle. Project report SE3036. Defra, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapman NG, Claydon K, Claydon M, Forde PG, Harris S (1993) Sympatric populations of muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)—a comparative analysis of their ranging behaviour, social organization and activity. J Zool (Lond) 229:623–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clutton-Brock T (1989) Mammalian mating systems. Proc R Soc Lond 236B:339–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cox DR, Donnelly CA, Bourne FJ, Gettinby G, McInerney JP, Morrison WI, Woodroffe R (2005) Simple model for tuberculosis in cattle and badgers. PNAS 102:17588–17593PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawshaw TR, Griffiths IB, Clifton-Hadley RS (2008) Comparison of a standard and a detailed postmortem protocol for detecting Mycobacterium bovis in badgers. Vet Rec 163:473–477PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cross PC, Drewe J, Patrek V, Pearce G, Samuel MD, Delahay RJ (2009) Wildlife population structure and parasite transmission: implications for disease management. In: Delahay RJ, Smith GC, Hutchings MR (eds) Management of disease in wild mammals. Springer, Tokyo, pp 9–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Lisle GW, Mackintosh CG, Bengis RG (2001) Mycobacterium bovis in free-living and captive wildlife, including farmed deer. Rev Sci Tech Off Int Epiz 20:86–111Google Scholar
  14. de Lisle GW, Bengis RG, Schmitt SM, O'Brien DJ (2002) Tuberculosis in free-ranging wildlife: detection, diagnosis and management. Rev Sci Tech Off Int Epiz 21:317–334Google Scholar
  15. Delahay RJ, de Leeuw ANS, Barlow AM, Clifton-Hadley RS, Cheeseman CL (2002) The status of Mycobacterium bovis infection in British wild mammals: a review. Vet J 163:1–16Google Scholar
  16. Delahay RJ, Smith GC, Ward AI, Cheeseman CL (2005) Options for the management of bovine tuberculosis transmission from badgers (Meles meles) to cattle: evidence from a long-term study. Mamm Stud 30:S73–S81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Delahay RJ, Smith GC, Barlow AM, Walker N, Harris A, Clifton-Hadley RS, Cheeseman CL (2007) Bovine tuberculosis infection in wild mammals in the south-west region of England: a survey of prevalence and a semi-quantitative assessment of the relative risks to cattle. Vet J 173:287–301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Donnelly CA, Woodroffe R, Cox DR, Bourne FJ, Cheeseman CL, Clifton-Hadley RS, Wei G, Gettinby G, Gilks P, Jenkins H, Johnston WT, Le Fevre AM, McInerney JP, Morrison WI (2005) Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on tuberculosis in cattle. Nature 439:843–846PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ferretti F, Sforzi A, Lovari S (2008) Intolerance amongst deer species at feeding: roe deer are uneasy banqueters. Behav Process 78:487–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gallagher J, Clifton-Hadley RS (2000) Tuberculosis in badgers; a review of the disease and its significance for other animals. Res Vet Sci 69:203–217PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Green P (2004) Tuberculosis in wild deer on Exmoor. Deer 13:14–17Google Scholar
  22. Griffin JFT, Mackintosh CG (2000) Tuberculosis in deer: perceptions, problems and progress. Vet J 160:202–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Griffin JFT, Chin DN, Rodgers CR (2004) Diagnostic strategies and outcomes on those New Zealand deer farms with severe outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis. Tuberculosis 84:293–302PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Griffin JM, William DH, Kelly GE, Clegg TA, O'Boyle I, Collins JD, More SJ (2005) The impact of badger removal on the control of tuberculosis in cattle herds in Ireland. Prev Vet Med 67:237–266PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harris S, Yalden DW (2008) Mammals of the British isles: handbook, 4th edn. The Mammal Society, SouthamptonGoogle Scholar
  26. Hars J, Boschiroli ML, Duvauchelle A, Zanella G, Garin-Bastuji B (2007) Bovine tuberculosis in free-living wild ungulates in France. In: Book of abstracts, Ecology and Management of Wildlife Diseases Conference, Central Science Laboratory, York, p 15Google Scholar
  27. Hayden DT, Cleaveland S, Taylor LH, Laurenson MK (2002) Identifying reservoirs of infection: a conceptual and practical challenge. Emerg Infect Dis 8:1468–1473Google Scholar
  28. Hill JA (2005) Wildlife–cattle interactions in northern Michigan: implications for the transmission of bovine tuberculosis. MS thesis, Utah State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  29. Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) (2007) Bovine TB: the scientific evidence. A science base for a sustainable policy to control TB in cattle. An epidemiological investigation into bovine tuberculosis. Report to the Rt Hon David Miliband. London, DefraGoogle Scholar
  30. Langbein J (2008) Management cull, not mass slaughter. Deer 14:22–23Google Scholar
  31. Lloyd-Smith JO, Cross PC, Briggs CJ, Daugherty M, Getz WM, Latto J, Sanchez MS, Smith AB, Swei A (2005) Should we expect population thresholds for wildlife disease? TREE 20:511–519PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McCallum H, Barlow N, Hone J (2001) How should pathogen transmission be modelled? TREE 16:295–300PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Mysterud A (1998) Large male territories in a low-density population of roe deer Capreolus capreolus with small female home ranges. Wildl Biol 4:231–235Google Scholar
  34. Nugent G (2005) The role of wild deer in the epidemiology and management of bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand. PhD thesis, Lincoln UniversityGoogle Scholar
  35. Palmer MV, Waters MR, Whipple DL (2004a) Shared feed as a means of deer-to-deer transmission of Mycobacterium bovis. J Wildl Dis 40:87–91PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Palmer MV, Waters WR, Whipple DL (2004b) Investigation of the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis from deer to cattle through indirect contact. Amer J Vet Res 65:1483–1489PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Putman RJ, Moore NP (1998) Impact of deer in lowland Britain on agriculture, forestry and conservation habitats. Mamm Rev 28:141–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Putman RJ, Langbein J, Hewison AJM, Sharma SK (1996) Relative roles of density-dependent and density-independent factors in population dynamics of British deer. Mamm Rev 26:81–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rogers LM, Cheeseman CL, Mallinson PJ, Clifton-Hadley RS (1997) The demography of a high-density badger (Meles meles) population in the west of England. J Zool (Lond) 242:705–728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rogers LM, Delahay RJ, Cheeseman CL, Smith GC, Clifton-Hadley RS (1999) The increase in badger (Meles meles) density at Woodchester Park, south-west England: implications for disease (Mycobacterium bovis) prevalence. Mammalia 63:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rudolph BA, Riley SJ, Hickling GJ, Frawley BJ, Garner MS, Winterstein SR (2006) Regulating hunter baiting for white tailed deer in Michigan: biological and social considerations. Wildl Soc Bull 34:314–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sleeman DP, Davenport J, More SJ, Clegg TA, Collins JD, Martin SW, Williams DH, Griffin JM, O'Boyle I (2009) How many Eurasian badgers Meles meles L. are there in the Republic of Ireland? Eur J Wildl Res 55:333–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith GC (2001) Models of Mycobacterium bovis in wildlife and cattle. Tuberculosis 81:51–64PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Staines BW, Welch D (1984) Habitat selection and impact of red (Cervus elaphus L.) and roe (Capreolus capreolus L.) deer in a sitka spruce plantation. Proc Roy Soc Edinb 82B:303–319Google Scholar
  45. Ward AI (2005) Expanding ranges of wild and feral deer in Great Britain. Mamm Rev 35:165–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ward AI, Smith GC, Etherington TR, Delahay RJ (2009) Estimating the risk of cattle exposure to TB by wild deer, relative to badgers in England and Wales. J Wildl Dis 45:1104–1120PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Welch D, Staines BW, Catt DC, Scott D (1990) Habitat usage by red (Cervus elaphus) and roe (Capreolus capreolus) deer in a Scottish sitka spruce plantation. J Zool (Lond) 221:253–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Werckman C, Hardy T, Wainwright E (2000) Crystal Ball 2000 user manual. Decisioneering Inc., DenverGoogle Scholar
  49. Wilkinson D, Smith GC, Delahay R, Rogers LM, Cheeseman CL, Clifton-Hadley RS (2000) The effects of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) on mortality in a badger (Meles meles) population in England. J Zool (Lond) 250:389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Woodroffe R, Donnelly CA, Wei G, Cox DR, Bourne FJ, Burke T, Butlin RK, Cheeseman CL, Gettinby G, Gilks P, Hedges S, Jenkins HE, Johnston WT, McInerney JP, Morrison WI, Pope LC (2009) Social group size affects Mycobacterium bovis infection in European badgers (Meles meles). J Anim Ecol 78:818–827PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© British Crown 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Food and Environment Research AgencyYorkUK

Personalised recommendations