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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #392219

Research Project: Ticks and Human Health

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Zoonotic implications of white-footed mice habitat selection and territoriality in fragmented landscapes

item HUMMELL, GRACE - University Of Maryland
item Li, Andrew
item KENT, CODY - University Of Maryland
item MULLINAX, JENNIFER - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Journal of Vector Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/3/2023
Publication Date: 8/29/2023
Citation: Hummell, G.F., Li, A.Y., Kent, C.M., Mullinax, J.M. 2023. Zoonotic implications of white-footed mice habitat selection and territoriality in fragmented landscapes. Journal of Vector Ecology. 48(2):89-102.

Interpretive Summary: White-footed mouse populations have thrived in fragmented suburban and urban parks and residential spaces. As the major vertebrate reservoir species for the pathogen that causes Lyme disease in people and an important host for the immature stages of black-legged tick, the white-footed mouse plays a pivotal role in the spread and prevalence of Lyme disease and several other tick-borne diseases. Understanding mouse habitat selection would aid development of more effective mouse-targeted tick control technologies. USDA-ARS scientists and researchers from the University of Maryland investigated activities of the white-footed mouse at the intersection of wooded area and residential backyards as part of an areawide tick management project. Mouse home range size was determined in relation to season, mouse density and sex. Ecological factors affecting mouse activity and behaviors as well as implications of research findings to tick management strategies were discussed. Disease ecologists, entomologists, tickborne disease epidemiologists, and vector control professionals can directly benefit from knowledge generated from this study in their efforts to improve tick surveillance and develop new host-targeted tick control technologies.

Technical Abstract: White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) populations can thrive in fragmented suburban and urban parks and residential spaces and play a pivotal role in the spread and prevalence of tick-borne diseases. We collected spatial data on 58 individual mice living at the intersection of county park land and residential land in suburban Howard County, MD, U.S.A. We analyzed mouse density, home-range size and overlap, and a Bayesian mixed-effects model to identify the habitats where they were found relative to where they were caught, as well as a resource selection function for general habitat use. We found that as mouse density increased, home-range size decreased. The overlap indices and the resource selection function supported territoriality coupled with site-specific space use in these suburban mouse populations. While mice occurred in open areas, forest edge, and forest, they showed a strong preference for forested areas. Interestingly, mice captured only 30 to 40 m into the forest rarely used the nearby private yards or human structures and this has direct implications for the placement of rodent-targeted tick control treatments. Our study supports the need for zoonotic disease management frameworks that are based on site-specific land cover characteristics as well as specific management objectives.