Hunting has long been proposed as a method to control wildlife disease. However, hunting in general and hunting with dogs in particular, may affect the prevalence of disease in hunted wildlife due to chronic stress and immunosuppression. Hunting with dogs has been shown to increase the stress levels of both the targeted animal and the animals that are pursued, but not killed.
Experts from the University of Florida and USDA Wildlife Services compared the prevalence and exposure of two non-native pathogens—pseudorabies virus and Brucella spp.— in 2,000 feral swine samples from areas that allow hunting with dogs and areas that use trapping or shooting without pursuit. Results showed the likelihood of exposure to pseudorabies and co-exposure to pseudorabies and Brucella was significantly higher in feral swine that were hunted by dogs than those that were harvested by other methods. This pattern did not hold for Brucella alone.
Researchers note the impact of dog hunting on the emergence of pathogens has the potential to affect public health, the livestock industry, and wildlife conservation.
For more information, please contact NWRC@usda.gov.