In 1995, Mycobacterium bovis, the causative bacterium of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), was detected in 5 beef cattle operations in Alcona County, Michigan, USA. In accordance with Federal law, the operations were depopulated to prevent the spread of bTB. Subsequent wildlife surveillance programs identified high prevalence of M. bovis in mesocarnivores, including raccoons (Procyon lotor), which suggested that raccoons may be complicit in vectoring the pathogen among livestock operations. Our goal was to develop an empirical basis for generating hypotheses about the likelihood for raccoons to mediate the transmission of bTB to livestock. We found intersexual differences in scale-dependent resource selection and probability of spatial interaction that, under certain circumstances, may form the foundation for a sex-bias in disease transmission. Spatial dispersion of mixed-forest patches facilitated overlap of adjacent males, whereas female overlap zones included pastures. Within overlap zones, probabilities of interaction for male–male and male–female dyads were greater than for female–female dyads, although we documented an elevated likelihood of spatial interaction between raccoons and livestock around cattle-feeding troughs and water sources, regardless of sex. Partial regressions generated by linear models indicated that distance between nearest-neighbor mixed-forest patches explained most of this observed variation. These results supported our prediction that forest patches juxtaposed with anthropogenic features fostered social tolerance between males and, thus, facilitated spatial interaction and exploitation of anthropogenic features. In raccoons, sex and landscape composition influenced pathogen transmission potential. We suggest that livestock producers locate livestock feeding and watering features away from forest patches to mitigate future outbreaks of bTB in endemic areas.
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Vol. 73 • No. 5