We examined seasonal dispersal patterns and timing of new infections of Sin Nombre virus (SNV), as determined by recent acquisition of antibodies (seroconversion), in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) at two Montana rangeland study sites over three years, 2004–2007. One study site was located in grassland habitat, and the other was located in shrub-steppe. In Montana, both of these habitats are commonly associated with peridomestic environments (in and around buildings). Peridomestic environments are where most reported human cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) likely originate. Furthermore, deer mice dispersing from sylvan habitats colonize peridomestic environments. Thus, a thorough understanding of deer mouse dispersal is needed to help predict when humans are most at risk for exposure to SNV. We trapped mice at each study site twice a month, accumulating 85,200 trap nights of effort and capturing 6,185 individual deer mice a total of 22,654 times. We documented 980 dispersing individuals over 3 yr. We found positive correlations between the number of dispersing mice and number captured at each site, but there were no statistically significant seasonal differences in the number of dispersing mice. However, we did find a spring/summer bias in mice that seroconverted and dispersed, suggesting that recently infected deer mice are most likely to enter settings where humans may be exposed to SNV during spring and summer.
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Vol. 45 • No. 4