Oral vaccination is an emerging management strategy to reduce the prevalence of high impact infectious diseases within wild animal populations. Plague is a flea-borne zoonosis of rodents that often decimates prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colonies in the western USA. Recently, an oral sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) was developed to protect prairie dogs from plague and aid recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes). Although oral vaccination programs are targeted toward specific species, field distribution of vaccine-laden baits can result in vaccine uptake by non-target animals and unintended indirect effects. We assessed the impact of SPV on non-target rodents at paired vaccine and placebo-treated prairie dog colonies in four US states from 2013 to 2015. Bait consumption by non-target rodents was high (70.8%, n = 3113), but anti-plague antibody development on vaccine plots was low (23.7%, n = 266). In addition, no significant differences were noted in combined deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) abundance or community evenness and richness of non-target rodents between vaccine-treated and placebo plots. In our 3-year field study, we could not detect a significant positive or negative effect of SPV application on non-target rodents.
Read more: Vaccine