ABSTRACT

Little information exists on the occurrence of Trichinella spp. in cougars (Puma concolor) throughout North and South America. However, species distribution models (SDM) can be used to predict suitable habitat for elusive species with limited occurrence data. In 2018, we used existing occurrence data to estimate the suitable habitat and ecological drivers of Trichinella species in cougars from the southwestern region of Colorado, US from winter months. Environmental layers were constructed and an SDM was then created for the southwestern region of Colorado. The final model (area under the curve=0.73) found areas of suitable habitat for Trichinella spp. to be associated with lower elevation, lower temperature, and higher proportions of evergreen needleleaf forests and grasslands. These results might indicate potential transmission hotspots for Trichinella spp. in the southwestern region of Colorado for where cougars are consuming infected hosts and where cougars can transmit to other hosts, including humans. However, due to limited occurrence data, more suitable habitat likely exists.

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