The role of deer as vehicles to move ticks, Ixodes ricinus, between contrasting habitats

Ruiz-Fons, F. and Gilbert, L. (2010) The role of deer as vehicles to move ticks, Ixodes ricinus, between contrasting habitats. International Journal for Parasitology, 40(9), pp. 1013-1020. (doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2010.02.006) (PMID:20211625)

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Abstract

In Europe the most important hosts maintaining Ixodes ricinus tick populations are deer. Therefore, excluding deer by fencing or culling are potential tick management tools. Here we test the hypothesis that deer act as vehicles for moving ticks between two distinct habitats: forest and open heather moorland. We utilised an ideal “natural experiment” whereby forests were either fenced or unfenced to prevent or allow deer to move between habitats. We aimed to test the hypothesis that deer cause a net movement of ticks from high tick density areas, i.e. forests, to low tick density areas, i.e. open moorland. We recorded I. ricinus and host abundance in 10 unfenced and seven fenced forests and their respective surrounding heather moorland. We found that fenced forests had fewer deer and fewer I. ricinus nymphs than unfenced forests. However, we found no evidence that fencing forests reduced I. ricinus abundance on adjacent heather moorland. Thus there was insufficient evidence for our hypothesis that deer cause a net movement of ticks from forest onto adjacent moorland. However, we found that deer abundance generally correlates with I. ricinus abundance. We conclude that fencing can be used as a tool to reduce ticks and disease risk in forests, but that fencing forests is unlikely to reduce ticks or disease risk on adjacent moorland. Instead, reducing deer numbers could be a potential tool to reduce tick abundance with implications for disease mitigation.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gilbert, Dr Lucy
Authors: Ruiz-Fons, F., and Gilbert, L.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:International Journal for Parasitology
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0020-7519
ISSN (Online):1879-0135
Published Online:06 March 2010

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