Gastropod occurrence and the utilization of habitat by sympatric populations of wapiti (Cervus elephus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on range enzootic for meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) were studied on Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in eastern Oklahoma. Visual observations and fecal pellet group transect data indicated that wapiti spent the majority of their time in open fields and meadows where we recovered the least numbers of gastropods. Although deer were frequently observed in open areas, visual sightings and transect data indicated that they spent more time in forested areas where we recovered the most gastropods. Gastropods harbored low numbers of P. tenuis larvae (0.00 to 0.06 larvae/gastropod) in all habitat types with the greatest recovery from red oak white oak-hickory forests (0.34 larvae/gastropod). Our results indicate that the reason a viable wapiti herd exists on Cookson Hills WMA in a P. tenuis enzootic area is at least partially because of the habitat preference by wapiti and the reduced availability of infected gastropods in the selected areas prefered by the wapiti. We were not able to detect any free-ranging wapiti that were shedding P. tenuis larvae nor were we able to detect past or sub-clinical infections with P. tenuis in wapiti.
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Vol. 27 • No. 1