Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Treating Deer For Ticks

Posted by Kirk
The Twin Cities Naturalist Blog is not just a place to read about birds. I swear! Birds have taken up a lot of this blog as of late since migration is in full swing. For those gentle readers who wish to read about the non-avifauna of the world I give you this post about ticks.

As a professional naturalist, I worry about deer ticks. It seems like if you are a naturalist you can pretty much guarantee you will get lyme disease at some point. I've had deer ticks on me but I haven't come down with it yet. Many of my co-workers have had to take antibiotics to battle lyme disease. The St. Croix Valley is a hot zone for lyme disease so my days are numbered. The problem is that the deer ticks are small and hard to see. Some can even be as small as the period at the end of this sentence. If you spend a lot of time outside, you'll get one eventually. Lyme disease aside, there are other tick borne diseases, some even spread by the simple woodtick.

The scientists J. Mathews Pound and J. Allen Miller at the Agricultural Research Service at the Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville, Texas think they have come up with a solution. Since deer ticks mainly feed on deer why not treat the deer for ticks? The fewer deer walking around with ticks, the fewer humans can get and the harder it will be to catch lyme disease. The ARS came up with The 4-poster.

The device is made of plastic and it has a hopper that contains food for deer. There are also four posts that are basically paint rollers covered in pesticides. I believe the pesticide of choice is 10% permethrin. Basically the same stuff you put on your dog to keep ticks off. When the deer comes to feed, the pesticide gets on the antlers, head and ears and helps kill ticks. It is a simple but brilliant idea.

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, when the 4-poster was used at a the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland (which is about the same size as the nature center where I work) they saw a, "96 to 98% reduction in free-living nymphal deer ticks" within 3 years of using the 4-poster. I wonder if someone could get a grant to have these installed at nature centers and parks where people are likely waking the same trails as deer? The system costs $800 and is only available though Dandux Outdoors.

Read more at Science Daily and the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

Photos: USDA ARS/Wayne Ryan


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

That sounds really interesting. We were up at our place Hasty Brook (north of Cromwell) last weekend. I used a strip of clear packing tape to take ticks off of my pants legs. I found ten ticks in one swipe- eight were deer ticks.

Kirk said...

Deer ticks are bad news. There are two schools of thought. One says wear long pants so you can pick them off. The other school of thought, championed by my co-host Paul is the shorts school. Paul always wears shorts and claims you can feel the ticks sooner. I'm starting to agree. With pants you never feel the ticks and they can make their way all they way up to your head before you find them. With shorts, I pretty much feel them within a few seconds of them getting on me. The radical other direction is to spray your pants with pyrethrin (the same stuff they are using on the deer.) Don't put it on your skin though or breathe the spray vapors.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Kirk -- just discovered your blog. I'm up in Marine on St. Croix off Old Guslander. I've been clearing the buckthorn on our ten acres. I got Lymes last summer -- when we lost power so I had skipped on a shower that day. Anyway luckily I diagnosed it right when I got the huge rash on my leg and the fever, etc. The doctor in Stillwater said it was an exceptional case of Lymes since I had all the classic symptoms. Not fun -- it took me a month to feel like myself again.

This deer tick pesticide machine is a great idea. Someone needs to kill off the deer for good eating at William O'Brien -- I hear they have 150 up there and last summer all the gardens got raided in Marine. We have 5 deer permanently living on our ten acres. You probably know my mom as she volunteered at Warner for a long time.

Kirk said...

When we asked the DNR about this I think they said they would not allow anyone to use this in MN at this time. Too bad, we are in a hot zone for lymes. Thanks for visiting the blog. You can sign up for email updates at the top to stay informed.

Unknown said...

I asked officials in Texas if I could make paintballs with pyrethrin injected and shoot the deer on our property with paintball guns and they said NO! No!, No!

Channah Miriam said...

Great Article. I had to quit going out in parks and nature because I am a tick magnet. Have had lyme and ehrlichiosis, and got bite by a Rocky MT. spotted tick while on doxicylene. I see this as a plus for many as our state has many hot spot counties now. I moved out of Crow Wing, only to have Stearns just as much infected with lyme ticks. I am in the shorts catagory and spraying shoes and socks. Though I feel those things can fly no matter how much I take precautions. Is there a new chart that shows the most heavy infested areas of ticks in MN?

Unknown said...

It sounds like an interesting idea. But with having to use a open food source to attract the deer. There are two problems that I can see one you aware causing a reliance on that food source. And secondly you increase the ability of transfer of infections and illness suck as chronic wasting disease.