Few studies have evaluated how wetland and forest characteristics influence the prevalence of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) infection of deer throughout the grassland biome of central North America. We used previously collected, county-level prevalence data to evaluate associations between habitat characteristics and probability of meningeal worm infection in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) across eastern South Dakota, US. The highest-ranked binomial regression model for detecting probability of meningeal worm infection was spring temperature summer precipitation percent wetland; weight of evidence (wi=0.71) favored this model over alternative models, though predictive capability was low (Receiver operating characteristic=0.62). Probability of meningeal worm infection increased by 1.3- and 1.6-fold for each 1-cm and 1-C increase in summer precipitation and spring temperature, respectively. Similarly, probability of infection increased 1.2-fold for each 1% increase in wetland habitat. Our findings highlight the importance of wetland habitat in predicting meningeal worm infection across eastern South Dakota. Future research is warranted to evaluate the relationships between climatic conditions (e.g., drought, wet cycles) and deer habitat selection in maintaining P. tenuis along the western boundary of the parasite.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1