Oral vaccination is an emerging management strategy to reduce the prevalence of high impact infectious diseases within wild animal populations. Plague is a flea-borne zoonosis of rodents that often decimates prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colonies in the western USA. Recently, an oral sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) was developed to protect prairie dogs from plague and aid recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes). Although oral vaccination programs are targeted toward specific species, field distribution of vaccine-laden baits can result in vaccine uptake by non-target animals and unintended indirect effects. We assessed the impact of SPV on non-target rodents at paired vaccine and placebo-treated prairie dog colonies in four US states from 2013 to 2015. Bait consumption by non-target rodents was high (70.8%, n = 3113), but anti-plague antibody development on vaccine plots was low (23.7%, n = 266). In addition, no significant differences were noted in combined deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) abundance or community evenness and richness of non-target rodents between vaccine-treated and placebo plots. In our 3-year field study, we could not detect a significant positive or negative effect of SPV application on non-target rodents.
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This research and GMB were supported by the Morris Animal Foundation (#D14ZO-031 and #D14ZO-412) and the U.S. Geological Survey. GMB performed this work with the USGS while she was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. We thank J. Cordova and G. Schroeder for trapping and sampling small rodents and sharing their samples and data. We also thank R. Russell for quantitative insight and expertise, D. Biggins and D. Tripp for methodological advice and D. Biggins, D. Eads, M.R. Matchett, M. McCollister, R. Griebel, A. Kavalunas and B. Maxfield for field support. We are very grateful to C. Crill, C. Tremper, K. Bach, Z. Vizer, N. Pawlikovsky, L. Brenner, A. Andrews, T. Brown, M. Murphy, K. Heitkamp, K. Palframan, J. Gruel, C. Poje, R. Larson, K. Murphy, C. Salas-Quinchucua, C. Malavé, E. Falendysz, J. Williamson, S. Smith, R. Abbott and others for field and laboratory assistance. This manuscript was greatly improved by comments from B. Christensen, B. Connely, R. Abbott and two anonymous reviewers. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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Bron, G.M., Richgels, K.L.D., Samuel, M.D. et al. Impact of Sylvatic Plague Vaccine on Non-target Small Rodents in Grassland Ecosystems. EcoHealth 15, 555–565 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-018-1334-5
- Yersinia pestis
- Sylvatic plague vaccine
- Non-target rodents
- Onychomys leucogaster