Introduced deer and their potential role in disease transmission to livestock in Australia.
The transmission of pathogens between wildlife and livestock is a globally recognised threat to the livestock industry, as well as to human and wildlife health. Wild cervids are susceptible to many diseases affecting livestock. This presents a challenge for wildlife and domestic animal disease management because the frequent use of agricultural areas by wild cervids may hamper the effectiveness of disease control strategies. Six deer species have established wild populations in Australia and are expanding in range and abundance. A comprehensive literature review of diseases impacting deer and livestock was undertaken, resulting in consideration of 38 pathogens. A qualitative risk assessment was then carried out to assess the overall risk posed by the pathogens to the livestock industry. Five diseases (bovine tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, malignant catarrhal fever, surra, and screw-worm fly infestation) ranked highly in our risk assessment. Of these five diseases, only one (malignant catarrhal fever) is currently present in Australia, but all five are notifiable diseases at a national level. Data on these diseases in deer are limited, especially for one of the most abundant species, the sambar deer Rusa unicolor, highlighting a further potential risk attributable to a lack of understanding of disease epidemiology. This paper provides a detailed review of the pathogens affecting both cervids and livestock in Australia, and applies a qualitative framework for assessing the risk posed by deer to the livestock industry. The qualitative framework used here could easily be adapted to assess disease risk in other contexts, making this work relevant to scientists and wildlife managers, as well as to livestock industry workers, worldwide.