Indexed on: 02 Apr '15Published on: 02 Apr '15Published in: International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Many health surveillance programs for wild cervids do not include routine parasite screening despite evidence that gastrointestinal parasites can affect wildlife population dynamics by influencing host fecundity and survival. Slaughter weights of moose in some regions of Norway have been decreasing over recent decades but any role of parasites has not yet been considered. We investigated parasite faunal diversity of moose in Hedmark, SE Norway, by faecal analysis and identification of adult abomasal and caecal nematodes during the autumn hunting season. We related parasite prevalence and abundance to estimates of body condition, gender and age. We identified 11 parasite groups. Moose had high abomasal gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) burdens and all individuals were infected. Ostertagia antipini and Spiculopteragia alcis were the most prevalent abomasal GINs identified. O. leptospicularis and Telodorsagia circumcincta were also identified in the abomasa while a range of other GIN and Moniezia sp. eggs, and coccidia, Dictyocaulus sp. and Protostrongylid larvae were found in faeces. Female moose had higher mean abomasal nematode counts than males, particularly among adults. However, adult males had higher faecal egg counts than adult females which may reflect reduction in faecal volume with concentration of eggs among males during the rut. We found no strong evidence for the development of acquired immunity to abomasal nematodes with age, although there was a higher Protostrongylid and Moniezia infection prevalence in younger animals. High burdens of several parasites were associated with poor body condition in terms of slaughter weight relative to skeletal size but unrelated to visually evaluated fat reserves. Given findings from earlier experimental studies, our results imply sub-clinical effects of GI parasite infection on host condition. Managers should be aware that autumn faecal egg counts and field assessments of fat reserves may not be reliable indicators of parasitism and may underestimate impacts on wildlife populations.