Comparative Prevalence and Intensity of Endoparasites in a Dynamic Boreal Ungulate Community

Cassandra Andrew
Brent Wagner
Jane Harms
Emily Jenkins
Thomas Jung
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Surveillance of endoparasites at the host community level is rarely reported for ungulates. Yet, changes in the composition and abundance of species in ungulate assemblages, coupled with environmental and climate change, bring into focus the need for baseline data on endoparasite occurrence in host species at the community level. We investigated the prevalence and intensity of eggs of endoparasites in feces of a dynamic boreal ungulate community in Yukon, Canada, that included reintroduced bison (Bison bison), as well as introduced elk (Cervus canadensis), naturally colonizing mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and resident populations of caribou (Rangifer tarandus), moose (Alces americanus), and thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli). We also examined the change in endoparasite prevalence and intensity in bison fecal samples collected eight years apart. The prevalence of eggs detected in feces differed across species for most endoparasite groups. We also provide new records of several endoparasites in novel hosts or new geographic records. We detected a substantially greater prevalence and intensity of trichostrongyle-type eggs in bison feces between samples collected eight years apart. Our data emphasize the need for targeted pathogen surveillance programs to monitor the movement of various ungulate and associated endoparasites. This is particularly pertinent since our data potentially supports evidence for the continued northward expansion and host switching of protostrongylid species, which may have health implications for animals at a new interface.