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Study Update Fall 2014

This year concludes the second year of a three year Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study currently being run in Redding by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The study is aimed at determining which tick control methods or combination thereof work best. The methods being tested include mice bait boxes, tick sprays (natural) and deer reduction. Also a second three year study is taking place, overlapping with the previous study mentioned, which is testing the effectiveness of mouse vaccination boxes.

Shortly, our small mammal trapping effort will come to an end for the season. In 2013, we trapped at 24 private residences in the four study areas on eight separate occasions, setting 258 traps each round or 2,064 total. We livecaptured 135 unique white-footed mice and 101 recaptures, as well as a few incidental captures which included chipmunks, voles, shrews, grey squirrels, and a wood frog which were released unharmed. As white-footed mice are the major reservoir for numerous tick-borne pathogens, once captured, they are temporarily sedated in order to receive a numbered ear tag, be inspected for feeding ticks (some of which are collected for testing), and have a blood sample drawn before being released back from where they were captured. Since 2013, we increased our trapping effort by 71% to now include 17 additional private residences in the four study areas.

Thus far in 2014, we have completed three rounds of trapping which has resulted in the capture of 305 white-footed mice and 42 recaptures. We have also captured many more chipmunks than in 2013 as well as several voles, shrews, and red squirrels. We plan to trap at each location on one more occasion this season and results will be compiled and disseminated later this winter.

Deer reduction is also a component of the study.  In 2013, 51 deer were removed as part of that effort and 25 in 2014. An additional 25 deer will be removed in 2015.  All venison from the deer is “donated to local charities, the majority of which through the Connecticut Hunt to Feed program

Drag sampling for questing ticks using a one meter-squared cloth has also been ongoing at private residences included in the project alongside small mammal trapping. All residences have been drag-sampled on a biweekly basis in 2014 since mid-May for a total of 328 sampling occasions. Total yield of blacklegged (aka. “deer”) ticks from those drag-sampling sessions through mid-July was 122 immature ticks.

The purpose of the small mammal trapping and tick drag sampling effort is to determine the impact of the various combinations of tick management treatments (fungal tick spray, bait boxes to treat rodents with Fipronil (the active insecticide in Frontline® for pets), and deer removal) on pathogen and immature tick presence. Ticks collected from mice and from drag sampling within our four study areas will be tested in the lab to determine treatment effectiveness on percent infection with pathogens associated with human disease, including the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

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