Density of Ixodes scapularis ticks on Monhegan Island after complete deer removal: a question of avian importation?

J Vector Ecol. 2011 Jun;36(1):11-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2011.00136.x.


Questing adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis Say) abundance declined markedly three years after the 1999 removal of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann) from Monhegan Island, ME. Since 2000, subadult ticks have not been found on Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus Berkenhout); questing nymphs have not been found since 2002. This suggested I. scapularis was reintroduced annually via bird importation of subadult ticks, but unable to complete its two-year life cycle on the island due to lack of deer. To investigate this, we used uncertainty analysis to estimate 1) questing adult ticks/ha that would result from avian importation of nymphs, and 2) questing adult ticks/ha on Monhegan Island, using bird capture and tick burden data from Appledore Island, ME, flagged tick data from Monhegan Island, and ten uncertain parameters. During the deer-fed period (1990-2001), estimated tick density on Monhegan Island was 18 times greater than that of imported ticks. During the post-deer-fed period (2002-2008), Monhegan Island tick density was equivalent to imported tick density. This supported the premise that all I. scapularis ticks on Monhegan Island have been bird-derived since 2002.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / parasitology
  • Deer / parasitology
  • Geography
  • Ixodes / growth & development*
  • Maine
  • Population Density