University of Kentucky

Poster Title

Parasite Prevalence in Kentucky Elk as Determined Through Abomasal Parasites and Fecal Egg Counts

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

Elk (Cervus elaphus) were extirpated from Kentucky in the mid-1800's, but a successful translocation of the Rocky mountain subspecies (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) from 5 western states has successfully reintroduced the species back to the Commonwealth. High reproductive and survival rates have allowed the elk to grow from 1500 to nearly 12,000 in the past decade. With elk numbers steadily increasing, it is important to be aware of potential pathogens that can have an effect on herd health. Studies have shown that parasite prevalence is directly related to cervid population health and density, and thus assessment of gastrointestinal parasite species in the current elk population will be an important monitoring tool to determining long-term population viability and general health. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of select parasite species in Kentucky elk, based on abomasal parasite and fecal egg counts. During the Kentucky elk hunt of 2012, abomasal and fecal samples were collected from 40 hunter-killed elk (20 cows and 20 bulls). Abomasal contents were used to quantify the luminal parasite burden, and fecal samples were used to quantitate the parasite eggs in each individual specimen. These results provide a baseline assessment of the most prevalent parasite species, and downstream analysis will also analyze the possible correlation between luminal parasite counts and fecal egg counts. The data from this analysis will assist in the maintenance and sustainability of a healthy elk population in Kentucky, which currently comprises about 80% of all elk in the eastern United States.

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Parasite Prevalence in Kentucky Elk as Determined Through Abomasal Parasites and Fecal Egg Counts

Elk (Cervus elaphus) were extirpated from Kentucky in the mid-1800's, but a successful translocation of the Rocky mountain subspecies (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) from 5 western states has successfully reintroduced the species back to the Commonwealth. High reproductive and survival rates have allowed the elk to grow from 1500 to nearly 12,000 in the past decade. With elk numbers steadily increasing, it is important to be aware of potential pathogens that can have an effect on herd health. Studies have shown that parasite prevalence is directly related to cervid population health and density, and thus assessment of gastrointestinal parasite species in the current elk population will be an important monitoring tool to determining long-term population viability and general health. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of select parasite species in Kentucky elk, based on abomasal parasite and fecal egg counts. During the Kentucky elk hunt of 2012, abomasal and fecal samples were collected from 40 hunter-killed elk (20 cows and 20 bulls). Abomasal contents were used to quantify the luminal parasite burden, and fecal samples were used to quantitate the parasite eggs in each individual specimen. These results provide a baseline assessment of the most prevalent parasite species, and downstream analysis will also analyze the possible correlation between luminal parasite counts and fecal egg counts. The data from this analysis will assist in the maintenance and sustainability of a healthy elk population in Kentucky, which currently comprises about 80% of all elk in the eastern United States.