The last outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United States occurred in 1929. Since that time, numbers and distribution of feral swine (Sus scrofa) have increased greatly, especially in the southern states. This creates a potential risk to livestock production because swine are susceptible to, and can be carriers of, several economically harmful diseases of livestock. Most importantly, swine are potent amplifiers of FMD virus. In this study, global positioning system (GPS) collars were placed on rangeland cattle (Bos indicus × taurus) and feral swine to determine shared habitat use by these species on a large ranch in south Texas from 2004 to 2006. The aim was to identify locations and rates of interspecies contact that may result in effective transfer of FMD virus, should an outbreak occur. In shrubland and riparian areas, animals were dispersed, so contacts within and between species were relatively infrequent. Indirect contacts, whereby cattle and feral swine used the same location (within 20 m) within a 360-min period, occurred primarily at water sources, and seasonally in irrigated forage fields and along ranch roads. Direct contacts between species (animals <20 m apart and within 15 min) were rare and occurred primarily at water sources. Changes in ranch management practices are suggested to reduce interspecies contact should an FMD disease outbreak occur. This information can also be used to improve current epidemiologic models to better fit free-ranging animal populations.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1