Invasive American mink: Linking pathogen risk between domestic and endangered carnivores

Sepúlveda MA, Singer RS, Silva-Rodríguez EA, Eguren A, Stowhas P, Pelican K

Infectious diseases, in particular canine distemper virus (CDV), are an important threat to the viability of wild carnivore populations. CDV is thought to be transmitted by direct contact between individuals; therefore, the study of species interactions plays a pivotal role in understanding CDV transmission dynamics. However, CDV often appears to move between populations that are ecologically isolated, possibly through bridge hosts that interact with both species. This study investigated how an introduced species could alter multihost interactions and act as a bridge host in a novel carnivore assemblage of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), invasive American mink (Neovison vison), and threatened river otters (Lontra provocax) in southern Chile. We found that rural dogs interact with mink near farms whereas in riparian habitats, minks and river otters shared the same latrines with both species visiting sites frequently within time intervals well within CDV environmental persistence. No interactions were observed between dogs and otters at either location. Both dog and mink populations were serologically positive for CDV, making the pathogen transfer risk to otters a conservation concern. Altogether, introduced mink in this ecosystem have the potential to act as bridge hosts between domestic dogs and endangered carnivores.

EcoHealth 11(3):409-19