Correlates of pathological lesion associated with respiratory cryptosporidiosis prevalence in shot red grouse Lagopus scotica from moors in northern England
Infection of wild red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica by Cryptosporidium baileyi was first diagnosed in 2010. Within three years, signs of infection were reported from grouse on half of all grouse moors in northern England, bringing severe concerns of economic losses to grouse shooting. A total of 45,914 red grouse shot from 10 moors in northern England between 2013 and 2018 were visually screened for signs of respiratory cryptosporidiosis. Prevalence varied with age, being twice as high in juveniles (4.5%) as in adults (2.4%). It also varied nine-fold between moors and three-fold between years. Prevalence was highest in grouse shot later in the shooting season. Our results are consistent with the concept that disease incidence is highest in naïve juveniles that have previously not been exposed to infection, with prevalence dropping as birds develop immunity. We found no evidence of increased prevalence over time, and fears of escalated disease prevalence, bringing with it increased mortality and lowered productivity, that may have significant impacts on the economic viability of shoots, have not yet been realized. We recommend continued annual screening for clinical signs amongst shot birds, better hygiene associated with potential reservoirs of infection, and practices that both improve the detection and selective culling of diseased individuals and generally reduce overall grouse densities.