Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

B&C Fellow - Samantha Courtney

Michigan State University - M.S. Student in Fisheries and Wildlife - Projected to Graduate in 2023
Project Title: Group Size, Bioaccumulation, and Baiting: Quantifying Factors Affecting Disease Transmission Among Deer

grew up on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan. I developed an interest in wildlife by reading about Jane Goodall and watching programs with Steve Irwin. Eventually, I moved to East Lansing to pursue my B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University. After graduating, I was employed as a research technician for several projects working with a variety of species including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and small mammals. For over a year I worked as a game management assistant for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department conducting pheasant and grouse surveys, banding waterfowl, assisting in bighorn sheep and sage grouse translocations, performing wildlife necropsies, and helping run the state’s chronic wasting disease surveillance program. My master’s research focuses on studying white-tailed deer behavior to gain a better understanding of factors that influence chronic wasting disease transmission. My goal is to become a wildlife biologist for a state or federal agency that uses sound science to inform management and policy decisions of game species.

Group Size, Bioaccumulation, and Baiting: Quantifying Factors Affecting Disease Transmission Among Deer

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects cervids. Michigan detected its first case of CWD in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population in 2015, and since then more than 200 positive cases have been reported. Given what we know about disease transmission and CWD dynamics in other states, it has been projected that CWD could have long-term population impacts on Michigan’s white-tailed deer and could negatively affect the state’s economy. While the pathways for CWD transmission have been well characterized, we do not fully understand factors that affect transmission and how those factors interact with each other. The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of how factors such as group size, bioaccumulation of feces, and baiting are affecting the transmissibility of this disease. By quantifying these factors, we can create risk models to help inform disease management decisions for Michigan’s deer population.


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt