Intracranial abscess disease is a cause of natural mortality for mature male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Most cases of abscesses are associated with bacterial infection by Trueperella (Arcanobacterium) pyogenes, but a complete understanding of the epidemiology of this disease is lacking. We quantified the effects of individual characteristics, site-specific herd demographics, land cover, and soil variables in estimating the probability of this disease. We examined 7,545 white-tailed deer from 60 sites throughout Georgia US for signs of cranial abscesses, the predecessor of intracranial abscesses, and recorded the presence or absence of cranial abscesses for each individual examined. We detected no cranial abscesses in 2,562 female deer but 91 abscesses in 4,983 male deer examined (1.8%). A generalized linear mixed model, treating site as a random effect, was used to examine several potential explanatory risk factors including site-level landscape and soil characteristics (soil and forest type), demographic factors (deer density and male to female ratio), and individual host factors (deer sex and age). Model results indicated that the probability of a male having a cranial abscess increased with age and that adult sex ratio (male:female) was positively associated with this disease. Site-specific variables for land cover and soil types were not strongly associated with observations of the disease at the scale measured and a large amount of among-site variability remained. Given the demonstrated effect of age, gender, and local sex ratios but the remaining unexplained spatial variability, additional investigation into spatiotemporal variation of the presumed bacterial causative agent of cranial abscesses appears warranted.
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Vol. 51 • No. 3