Resource-driven changes in wild boar movement and their consequences for the spread of African Swine Fever in the Russian Far East

Knowledge of animal movement patterns is invaluable to understanding the spread of diseases among wildlife populations. One example is the recent African swine fever (ASF) outbreak among wild boar Sus scrofa populations across East Asia, where there is a lack of information on movements of this species. During a wild boar tracking project to inform abundance estimation methods in the Russian Far East’s Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik, the combination of high variability in pulsed resources of acorns and pine nuts between fall 2019 and fall 2020, and the outbreak of ASF during the latter year, offered the unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between wild boar movements to exploit pulsed resources and the potential for disease spread. We analyzed relocation data from GPS-collared wild boar in fall 2019 and 2020 and compared them to reference data in Belgium, representative of western Europe. We found remarkable differences in movement patterns, with Far East wild boar travelling large distances in fall 2020 (maximum observed of 77 km in four days) when the availability of acorns was low. In our resource selection analysis, we found clear selection for mast-producing forest types that corresponded with the species of greater mast production (oak or pine) for that year. Comparing the displacement of individual wild boar along a moving window of 1–7 days (time between infection and the onset ASF symptoms) highlighted the potential of rapid ASF spread over long distances when wild boar are in search of pulsed resources. This work demonstrates the capacity of wild boar to move long distances to exploit resources and emphasizes the need to consider resource availability when predicting the speed and extent to which diseases such as ASF can spread.

Waller, Scott & Morelle, Kevin & Seryodkin, Ivan & Rybin, Alexander & Soutyrina, Svetlana & Licoppe, Alain & Hebblewhite, Mark & Miquelle, Dale. (2024). Resource‐driven changes in wild boar movement and their consequences for the spread of African Swine Fever in the Russian Far East. Wildlife Biology. 10.1002/wlb3.01276.

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