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UGA researchers find that hunting can increase the severity of wildlife disease epidemics

ase by removing those individuals who have contracted a virus but have developed lifelong immunity as a result of their infection.

The researchers found that compensation and lifelong immunity conferred by a virus interact so that the timing of mating and birth seasons determine whether hunting increases or decreases disease prevalence. They found that an outbreak is barely affected when hunting occurs between mating and birth season while an outbreak lessens when hunting occurs during the birth season. An outbreak increases dramatically when hunting occurs between the birth season and the next mating season.

The effect can be so dramatic that in some cases hunting can increase not only the proportion of infections and deaths, but also the absolute numbers. For example, their model shows that in the case of swine fever, a highly infectious disease threatening boars and pigs in Europe, hunting can increase the number of infected individuals by twenty five percent.

"If we want to preserve the hunted population, we should be careful about when we schedule the hunting season compared to birth season because if it's too early or late, it can drive the population to extinction," Rohani said. "If we want to control a disease in the host population, the timing of the hunting season can be chosen to be optimal for that."


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Source:University of Georgia


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