Illinois has been managing chronic wasting disease for over 10 years. The first case of chronic wasting disease was detected in 2002. The state has been tireless in its efforts to slow the spread of the disease which is 100% fatal in white-tailed deer. As the disease spreads to new states, like Michigan, managers are forced to select and deploy a management program in an effort to control the disease among their valuable herds of white-tailed deer. Research that our team published in 2014 compared the effectiveness of Illinois’ disease management program to Wisconsin’s disease management program. We found that when both states practiced similar management strategies, the prevalence of chronic wasting disease was similar at approximately 1%. However, when Wisconsin modified their management, prevalence increased in the following years to 5%. In contrast, the prevalence in Illinois remained stable at 1%. Now as managers in states like Michigan make crucial decisions on how best to manage, they can look to Illinois as an example of success. Our research provides the scientific evidence necessary to support their claim to success.
We recently completed a study to answer that question. As it turns out, river otters do a lot at latrines. They groom themselves, they groom each other, sniff things, dig and wrestle. Sometimes they visit in groups but more often they visit a latrine on their own. We developed and used a behavioral ethogram to describe behaviors that river otters display at latrines. We used trail cameras to capture river otter behavior and used that information to determine the most common behaviors, group size, time of day that otters prefer to visit latrines and visitation rates over the course of a year.
Check out the full study here! Be sure to look at the supplementary information where you can view actual video footage of each river otter behavior type (for example, look at this video of river otters wrestling!).
A special thanks to our co-author, Katie Monick. Katie completed all of the field work for this project as an undergraduate James Scholar in Animal Sciences.