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Research Project: Ticks and Human Health

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Trapping white-tailed deer (Artiodactyla: cervidae) in suburbia for study of tick-host interaction

item RODEN-REYNOLDS, PATRICK - University Of Maryland
item MACHTINGER, ERIKA - Pennsylvania State University
item Li, Andrew
item MULLINAX, JENNIFER - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Journal of Insect Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/27/2020
Publication Date: 11/2/2020
Citation: Roden-Reynolds, P., Machtinger, E.T., Li, A.Y., Mullinax, J.M. 2020. Trapping white-tailed deer (Artiodactyla: cervidae) in suburbia for study of tick-host interaction. Journal of Insect Science.

Interpretive Summary: White-tailed deer are a keystone host of the blacklegged tick. Surveillance of ticks on hosts is an important component of understanding the ecology of this species. Collecting biological samples for vector and disease monitoring for wildlife and human health is becoming more common and often requires live capture of the specific host species. Capture of vertebrate hosts can be complicated and entomologists and disease ecologists have historically relied on ticks recovered from hunter harvests. But parasite collections of hunter harvested animals may not permit assessment of a specific area like a neighborhood or park, especially if those target areas are urban or suburban where hunting seldom occurs. As a part of an USDA supported areawide tick management project, USDA scientists teamed up with researchers from two universities conduct live capture study of the white-tailed deer to examine tick load on deer in order to access tick-host interaction. The work resulted in the development of a safe deer trapping protocol and recommendations to improve efficiency of deer trapping programs using drop nets in suburban areas which can be used by other researchers in future tick-host vector ecology research. Wildlife biologists, vector-borne disease ecologists, and researchers in fields of animal behavior, population control would benefit from the live deer capture methodology and recommendations generated from this study.

Technical Abstract: Live capture of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (Zimmermann, 1780) is often necessary for research, population control, disease monitoring, and parasite surveillance. We provide our deer trapping protocol used in a tick-host vector ecology research project and recommendations to improve efficiency of deer trapping programs using drop nets in suburban areas. We captured 125 deer across two trapping seasons. Generally, lower daily minimum temperatures were related to increased capture probability, along with the presence of snow. Our most successful trapping sites were less forested, contained more fragmentation, and greater proportion of human development (buildings, roads, recreational fields). To improve future suburban deer trapping success, trapping efforts should include areas dominated by recreational fields and should not emphasize remote, heavily forested, less fragmented parks. Concurrently, our study illustrated the heterogeneous nature of tick distributions, and we collected most ticks from one trapping site with moderate parameters values between the extremes of the most developed and least developed trapping sites. This emphasizes the need to distribute trapping sites to not only increase your capture success but to also trap in areas across levels of urbanization and fragmentation to increase the probability of parasite collection.