Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #392276

Research Project: Ticks and Human Health

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: White-tailed deer spatial distribution in relation to ‘4-Poster’ tick control devices in suburbia

item RODEN-REYNOLDS, PATRICK - University Of Maryland
item KENT, CODY - University Of Maryland
item Li, Andrew
item MULLINAX, JENNIFER - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/11/2022
Publication Date: 4/17/2022
Citation: Roden-Reynolds, P., Kent, C.M., Li, A.Y., Mullinax, J.M. 2022. White-tailed deer spatial distribution in relation to ‘4-Poster’ tick control devices in suburbia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Interpretive Summary: Deer are a keystone host for adult ticks, and among other species, have been implicated in the overall rise in tick abundances and outbreaks of tickborne diseases in the past several decades in the United States. The USDA-developed ‘4-Poster’ feeders / treatment station has been used as host-targeted tick control tool to suppress tick populations in environment. However, use of bait (e.g. corn, mineral licks, etc.) as an attractant requires consideration of other factors, such as spread of other diseases like chronic wasting disease (CWD) or increasing the density of deer populations. USDA ARS scientists and university researchers joined force to investigate the effects of baited ‘4-Poster’ feeders on deer movements as part of an integrated tick management project in a suburban county in Maryland. Results indicate collared deer visited ‘4-Poster’ feeders frequently throughout the year, with most individuals visiting more than one feeder within a park. A majority of collared white-tailed deer visited a feeder approximately every 5 days. The study provided a quantitative evaluation of the spatial distribution of white-tailed deer when ‘4-Poster’ feeders were fully integrated into an IPM program. Results obtained from this study are of interest to deer ecologists, wildlife biologists, tick-borne disease epidemiologists, wildlife managers, and natural resources and public health departments.

Technical Abstract: Deer are keystone hosts for adult ticks and have enabled the spread of tick distributions. The ‘4-Poster’ deer bait station was developed by the USDA to control ticks feeding on free-ranging deer. Although effective in certain scenarios, the ‘4-Poster’ deer treatment stations require the use of bait to attract deer which may have potential consequences. We captured and GPS monitored 35 deer as a part of the USDA’s integrated pest management project in Maryland. Fifteen ‘4-Poster’ stations were deployed among 3 county parks to control ticks. To understand the effects of baited feeding stations on deer movement we calculated movement metrics before and after feeder refilling as well as gathered information on feeder visitation. Overall, 83.3% of collared deer visited a feeder and revisited approximately every 5 days. After feeders were refilled, collared deer were ~5% closer to feeders and conspecifics than before filling. ‘4-Poster’ feeders, when stocked at similar densities, were found to slightly alter deer movement. Although this affect may not be strong enough to increase deer abundances, in light of current infectious diseases affecting deer populations, the clustering followed after refilling bait at 4-Poster stations can be a cause for concern.