Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 10, pp 1923–1935 | Cite as

Using landscape epidemiological models to understand the distribution of chronic wasting disease in the Midwestern USA

  • Stacie J. RobinsonEmail author
  • Michael D. Samuel
  • Robert E. Rolley
  • Paul Shelton
Research Article


Animal movement across the landscape plays a critical role in the ecology of infectious wildlife diseases. Dispersing animals can spread pathogens between infected areas and naïve populations. While tracking free-ranging animals over the geographic scales relevant to landscape-level disease management is challenging, landscape features that influence gene flow among wildlife populations may also influence the contact rates and disease spread between populations. We used spatial diffusion and barriers to white-tailed deer gene flow, identified through landscape genetics, to model the distribution of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the infected region of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, USA. Our generalized linear model showed that risk of CWD infection declined exponentially with distance from current outbreaks, and inclusion of gene flow barriers dramatically improved fit and predictive power of the model. Our results indicate that CWD is spreading across the Midwestern landscape from these two endemic foci, but spread is strongly influenced by highways and rivers that also reduce deer gene flow. We used our model to plot a risk map, providing important information for CWD management by identifying likely routes of disease spread and providing a tool for prioritizing disease monitoring and containment efforts. The current analysis may serve as a framework for modeling future disease risk drawing on genetic information to investigate barriers to spread and extending management and monitoring beyond currently affected regions.


Epidemiological modeling Chronic wasting disease Illinois Risk mapping Wildlife disease Wisconsin White-tailed deer 



We thank Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Department of Natural Resources for their collaboration obtaining data. Funding was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Hatch grant, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Thanks to the University of Wisconsin Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology for assistance with publication costs. Note that any use of trade, product or firm names is for descriptive purposes, and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacie J. Robinson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael D. Samuel
    • 2
  • Robert E. Rolley
    • 3
  • Paul Shelton
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Illinois Department of Natural ResourcesSpringfieldUSA

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