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Sci Rep. 2019 May 28;9(1):7940. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44148-9.

Wolves contribute to disease control in a multi-host system.

Author information

1
Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Department of Mathematics, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK. ent1@hw.ac.uk.
2
Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Department of Mathematics, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK.
3
SaBio, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos IREC (CSIC-UCLM), Ciudad Real, Spain.
4
SERIDA, Gobierno del Principado de Asturias, Gijón, Spain.
5
Animal Health Department, University of León, León, Spain.
6
Gobierno del Principado de Asturias, Oviedo, Spain.

Abstract

We combine model results with field data for a system of wolves (Canis lupus) that prey on wild boar (Sus scrofa), a wildlife reservoir of tuberculosis, to examine how predation may contribute to disease control in multi-host systems. Results show that predation can lead to a marked reduction in the prevalence of infection without leading to a reduction in host population density since mortality due to predation can be compensated by a reduction in disease induced mortality. A key finding therefore is that a population that harbours a virulent infection can be regulated at a similar density by disease at high prevalence or by predation at low prevalence. Predators may therefore provide a key ecosystem service which should be recognised when considering human-carnivore conflicts and the conservation and re-establishment of carnivore populations.

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