Utilizing hunter harvest effort to survey for wildlife disease: A case study of West Nile virus in greater sage‐grouse

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  • Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse) are highly susceptible to infection with West Nile virus (WNV), with substantial mortality reported in wild populations and in experimentally infected birds. Although sage-grouse are hunted throughout much of their range, they have also recently been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. We used blood samples collected on filter-paper strips during the 2006–2010 Oregon, USA, annual sage-grouse hunt to survey for specific WNV-neutralizing antibodies that indicate a previous infection with WNV. During this period, hunters submitted 1,880 blood samples from sage-grouse they harvested. Samples obtained were proportional for all 12 Oregon sage-grouse hunting units. Laboratory testing of 1,839 samples by the WNV epitope-blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (bELISA) followed by plaque reduction neutralization test on bELISA-positive samples yielded 19 (1%) and 1 (0.05%) positive samples, respectively. These data provided early baseline information for future comparisons regarding the prevalence of WNV-specific neutralizing antibodies in sage-grouse in Oregon. This methodology may provide other states where sage-grouse (or other species) populations are hunted and where WNV constitutes a species conservation concern with a viable option to track the relative prevalence of the virus in populations.
  • Keywords: filter-paper strip, greater sage-grouse, hunter harvest, Centrocercus urophasianus, Oregon, West Nile virus
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  • Dusek, R. J., Hagen, C. A., Franson, J. C., Budeau, D. A., & Hofmeister, E. K. (2014). Utilizing hunter harvest effort to survey for wildlife disease: A case study of West Nile virus in greater sage‐grouse. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 38(4), 721-727. doi:10.1002/wsb.472
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  • 38
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  • 4
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