Ixodes ricinus infestation in free-ranging cervids in Norway—a study based upon ear examinations of hunted animals

Kjell Handeland, Lars Qviller, Turid Vikøren, Hildegunn Viljugrein, Atle Lillehaug, Rebecca K Davidson
Veterinary Parasitology 2013 July 1, 195 (1): 142-9
Prevalence, abundance and instar composition of Ixodes ricinus as found on one ear collected from 1019 moose (Alces alces), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), shot during hunting (August-December) 2001-2003, are reported. The animals originated from 15 coastal municipalities (CM), seven municipalities bordering to coastal municipalities (BCM) and four inland municipalities (IM), in Norway, between latitudes 58-66° N. I. ricinus occurred endemically in all CM and BCM up to 63°30' N, whereas it was non-endemic further north and in the IM. This geographical distribution of the tick along the coast of southern Norway was largely in accordance with that reported as far back as the 1940s. Our results therefore did not indicate any large scale northwards expansion of I. ricinus in Norway during the 60 year-period between the two studies. However, the prevalence of infestation and tick abundance were significantly higher in CM as compared to BCM. The prevalence and abundance by month were highest during August and September, gradually decreasing towards December. The considerable prevalence of ticks in November, as well as findings in December, would seem to indicate a prolonged tick season as compared with the studies carried out 60 years ago. A total of 8920 ticks were isolated from 439 of the 603 animals examined in endemic municipalities, and the maximum number of ticks found on one single ear was 204. Attached adult ticks were primarily found among the long hairs at base of the ear, whereas nymphs and larvae were seen all over the outer surface of the pinna, for larvae especially at the edge and tip of the ear. Nymphs were the dominant instar, constituting 74% of the total tick count. The proportion of larvae and adult ticks was 13% and 12%. A significantly higher proportion of adult ticks and lower proportion of immature stages were found in moose, as compared to red deer and roe deer. The same apparently size-associated preference of adult ticks was also found for adult animals (all species) as compared to calves. Other grossly detected ectoparasites included the lice Solenopotes burmeisteri in red deer and Damalinia meyeri in roe deer, and the deer ked fly, Lipoptena cervi, in moose and roe deer. This is believed to be the first systematic study on the instar composition by I. ricinus infestation in free-ranging cervids. The examination of ears from hunted cervids should be recognized as a rational way of obtaining data on the geographical distribution and abundance of this tick in nature.

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