Pathogen exposure patterns among sympatric populations of bighorn sheep, mule deer, and cattle

Singer RS, Jessup DA, Gardner IA, Boyce WM
Journal of Wildlife Diseases 33:377-382

We sampled sympatric bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis, n = 31), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, n = 38), and domestic cattle (n = 26) in the San Bernadino Mountains of southern California (USA) for the presence of Psoroptes spp. mites and for serologic evidence of exposure to bluetongue virus (BTV) and Babesia spp. From 1991 through 1994, Psoroptes spp. infestations were found on 12 (44%) of 27 bighorn sheep. No mites were found on mule deer or cattle. The BTV serum antibody prevalence in a cohort of 26 cattle ranged from 17 to 89%. There was no evidence of exposure to BTV in the bighorn sheep or mule deer. The cumulative serum antibody prevalence of Babesia spp. during the study was 35% in 26 bighorn sheep and 85% in 20 mule deer, while antibodies were not detected in a cohort of cattle when they were sampled in May (n = 23) and December (n = 22) of 1992. Based on these results, we concluded that infestation with Psoroptes spp. and exposure to BTV was limited to bighorn sheep and cattle, respectively. In contrast, Babesia spp. infections appeared to be common in both mule deer and bighorn sheep while there was no evidence of exposure in cattle.