Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Pennsylvania
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Fischer, J.W., C.R. Blass, W.D. Walter , C.W. Anderson, M.J. Lavelle, W.H. Hall, and K.C. VerCauteren. 2016. Evaluating a strategy to deliver vaccine to white-tailed deer at a landscape level. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40(2):394–399.


Effective delivery of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals to wildlife populations is needed when disease outbreaks pose a risk to public health or have huge economic consequences. We created a grid of experimental bait stations (n=64) on Sandhill Wildlife Management Area, Wisconsin, USA to assess station densities needed to attract and deliver placebo baits to free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and look for associations between deer density, number of bait stations per deer, and bait consumption. We placed 1L (in volume) of alfalfa cubes at bait stations 652 m apart, and monitored with motion-activated cameras for 5 days to document visitation, consumption, and potential for vaccine delivery to non-target species. Deer discovered only 38% of all bait stations within 37 hours, on average, and the number of bait stations in which deer consumed <50%, 50-99%, or 100% of the bait was proportionally equal (13%; n=8). We documented 94% of all photographs of wildlife at bait stations to be white-tailed deer. We also found no significant relationships between bait consumption and deer density or the number of bait stations per deer. We provide information on use of baits by deer and non-target wildlife with our predetermined baiting density and bait matrix. Altering grid spacing between bait stations, targeting specific areas where deer frequent (e.g. forest edges), and amount of bait per station will enable managers to optimize delivery and consumption of vaccine-laden baits to a large proportion of the deer in similar habitats.