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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #430440

Research Project: GPS Tracking of White-tailed Deer Movement to Understand Tick-Host Interaction and Improve Lyme Disease Vector Control in Howard County

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32000-012-07-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2016
End Date: Jul 31, 2021

The work has following objectives: (1) determine patterns of white-tailed deer movement and impacts on the distribution and abundance of blacklegged ticks in suburban landscape surrounding natural areas / parks in Howard County; (2) determine if placement of the ‘4-poster’ deer bait (self treatment) stations alters deer movement patterns, as well as its impact on tick density on resident white-tailed deer; (3) implement an integrated tick control strategy that combines host-targeted and non-host targeted tick control measures for suppression of tick populations in environment; and (4) determine if and how different ecological settings may affect the level of suppression of host-seeking ticks.

This research project will be conducted in Howard County, Maryland by a representative in the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks (HCDRP) and the USDA-ARS P.I., with help from the University of Maryland through a separate agreement with USDA-ARS. Necessary permits and protocols will be obtained from appropriate offices of USDA, the State of Maryland, and Howard County. Three county parks and one natural area (Blandair Park, David Force Park, Schooley Mill Park, and Middle Patuxent Environmental Area) and adjacent residential areas will be selected as field study sites. A total of 50 female white-tailed deer (~15 at Blandair Park, 20 at Middle Patuxent Natural Area, and 15 at Schooley Mill Park) will be captured using drop nets and tranquilized with an injection of xylazine. One GPS collar will be placed on the neck of each captured deer. GPS units will be programmed to capture GPS coordinates every 60 or120 min. The research team will use the VHF beacon to monitor deer bi-weekly. If a mortality signal is received, the dead animal will be located and removed by HCDRP. GPS collars will be recovered via drop off mechanisms, recapture, and/or managed hunting of the animals. Data will be downloaded for analysis. For tick control efficacy trials, experimental design will allow assignment of different combinations of tick control options to test areas for better understanding of the synergistic or additive effects of following tick control methods alone or in combination: 1) '4-Poster' deer feeders placed in two of the natural areas / parks, 2) Select TCS rodent bait boxes at residential back yards, and 3) spray treatment at residences boarding the natural area or park with a biopesticide, Metarhizium anisopliae (Met52). A sufficient number of residential homes will be recruited / selected to serve in each residential treatment group. Ticks will be sampled at test sites and surrounding residential areas using the flagging/dragging method. Ten locations at each of the field sites and 20 locations in the residential areas surrounding each field locations will be sampled on the bi-weekly basis during the nymphal (May-August) and adult (October–December) tick seasons. As appropriate, permission for tick sampling will be obtained from the communities involved. Tick infestation levels of deer at test sites will be assessed by counting the numbers of ticks attached to one ear of deer when white-tailed deer are harvested through managed hunting. Ticks collected from deer and during vegetation tick sampling will be identified to species / life stage, counted, and preserved in 80% ethanol. Preserved tick samples will be sent to a collaborator for DNA detection of the Lyme disease pathogen to determine infection rate among ticks collected from those field locations and surrounding residential areas. The spatial and temporal patterns of deer movement will be analyzed. GIS tick population dynamics in study areas as well as tick population density data from those field locations and surrounding residential areas will be incorporated into GIS models to generate tick risk maps.