In order to determine the significance of infectious diseases and parasite infestations in chamois game and their impact on population dynamics, the Tyrolean Hunters' Association, in cooperation with our Institute for Veterinary Studies in Innsbruck, developed a questionnaire for a data collection on the health of Tyrolean chamois game populations in 2019. 208 hunters from all Tyrolean administrative districts completed this questionnaire for a total of 254 hunting grounds. More than half (57%) of the respondents had been in charge of their hunting ground for 10 years or more, 18% between 6 and 10 years and 25% less than 6 years.
In the survey, 42% of respondents indicated that the chamois population in their hunting area had not changed. 26% observed an increase and 32% a decrease. Of the 32% of hunting grounds where the population has decreased, half (50%) cite recreational use in the summer and 45% cite recreational use in the winter as the cause (multiple responses possible) for this decrease. Another 44% cite disease as the cause. This is followed by hunting overuse (30%), habitat loss (27%), climatic factors (17%), and competition with other cloven-hoofed game species (12%). In addition to diseases observed by the hunters in their hunting grounds in "healthy" shot chamois, especially those diseases were recorded in the survey, which are observed in "Hegeabschuss" and "dead" found chamois. Chamois mange is of great importance in those Tyrolean chamois game districts where this parasitic disease caused by mites is currently widespread. But also chamois blindness, bacterial and parasitic lung diseases, liver flukes, diarrhea as well as external injury are detected in different frequencies, depending on the region.
In the survey, the influences of alpine pasture management, the various species of farm animals that are alpine pastures, as well as the application of liquid manure were also surveyed. Of interest was the extent to which overlapping habitats of rock and chamois game have negative effects on health status in chamois. The data collection revealed a significant correlation between the presence of rock deer in the hunting area and the increased incidence of mange, chamois blindness, and pneumonia in fallow deer and haying kills. Alpine pasture management with sheep was also associated with increased incidence of chamois blindness and pneumonia in fallen game and gamekeeper kills. An increase or decrease in livestock on alpine pastures does not seem to have any particular influence on the population size of chamois deer, as well as no correlation between the application of manure with the occurrence of liver fluke was found.
Infectious diseases caused by parasites, bacteria or viral pathogens but also those with a non-infectious background can occur in native chamois game as single animal diseases or epidemic. Active or passive monitoring of the health status of chamois game populations is therefore a form of early warning system to detect emerging epidemics and disease outbreaks in this wildlife population at an early stage and to initiate corrective measures if necessary. Especially in the case of an increase in the number of game birds shot or in the number of fallen game in the hunting area, diagnostic clarification examinations should be carried out immediately to determine the causes of disease and death.
Publication: Just, M., Lettl, C., Glawischnig, W., Tripolt, T. (2020). Project chamois game survey: what makes our chamois game sick? Hunting in Tyrol, November 2020, Volume 72.