Lyme Ticks Don’t Harm Mice

cary institute mouse taggingThe ticks that carry Lyme disease, black-legged ticks or deer ticks, do not appear to harm their white-footed mice hosts, a paper in press in the journal Ecology says. In fact, the research found, a larger tick load correlated with a longer life in male mice.

The mice are a reservoir for Lyme disease, a report on the study in Entomology Today notes. “Deer and other mammals can spread tick populations, [but] they do not carry the disease,” the report says. “Instead, ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from white-footed mice.”

In a press release from the Cary Institute, paper co-author Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, says, “From a human health perspective, the indifference that white-footed mice have to black-legged ticks…. signals a positive feedback loop that favors the proliferation of parasites.”

Lots of details in the Cary Institute press release, here.
And in the Entomology Today article, here.

Photo: The study drew on 16 years of white-footed mouse mark-and-recapture data collected at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. Photo credit: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies/Sam Cillo.


New Tech: Ground Penetrating Radar

Texas researchers used ground penetrating radar to study pocket gophers. The researchers were able to map the pocket gopher’s tunnels to a depth of over a foot. They were also able to spot animals within the tunnels and differentiate between and underground pipeline and the pocket gopher tunnels. They wrote about it in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Wildlife Society Bulletin.

While pocket gophers are a nuisance in places like Washington State, the subspecies studied is a species of concern for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The research took place on a naval base.

The researchers feel that ground penetrating radar can be helpful in other wildlife management applications.

Read the Wildlife Society Bulletin paper, here. (Fee or subscription required for full text.)

Windrows Help Mammal Diversity in Clear-cuts

slash in california m_martinA study out of British Columbia, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, says that creating either large piles or windrows of coarse woody debris during timber harvesting helps forest-specialist small mammal species, such as the red-backed vole, stick around after a clear-cut.

The study found that the piles or windrows of branches and twigs should be at least two meters (six feet) tall and five meters (25 feet) wide to be effective. The piles and windrows were more effective than scattering the branches and twigs evenly across the clear-cut space, the paper says.

Carnivores, such as coyotes, lynx and weasels, were also more likely to stick around in clear-cuts were woody debris had been placed in piles or windrows, the study found. The study also found that there were just as many small mammals in the clear-cuts as there were in the uncut forest. The difference was that in the clear-cuts there were many more generalist species, such as white-footed mice, while the forest specialists had disappeared.

The paper is open access, so read the whole thing in the Journal of Mammalogy, here.

Photo of woody debris or slash being used to stop sediment from flowing into a trout stream. By Jon Jue, courtesy of US Forest Service.

Hurricane Sandy and Wildlife

Normally it takes a few weeks after a major natural disaster for the media to turn its attention to the impacts on wildlife. With Hurricane Sandy, some stories have popped up already.

This one is on the impact of hurricanes on shorebirds from National Geographic. (The impact is generally not significant, the article says.) Read the article here.

The survival and movement of one particular non-native species is getting a lot of attention: rats in New York City. The take-away? Many rats likely survived, migrating to the surface from their underground burrows, although young pups probably didn’t. Trash and debris on the streets will likely mean plenty of food, but an unprecedented event like Sandy in NYC means no one really knows what will happen.

Read the AFP story on Space Daily, of all places.

In other non-native species news, the Seattle PI reports that all 135 of the Chincoteague ponies, which live on barrier islands in Virginia, made it through the storm. Read the story here.

Nothing, yet, from the hardest hit areas in New Jersey and New York, but that is not a surprise.

Photo: NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image Sandy’s massive circulation on Oct. 29 at 18:20 UTC (2:20 p.m. EDT). Sandy covers 1.8 million square miles, from the Mid-Atlantic to the Ohio Valley, into Canada and New England. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Not Eager for Beavers

Garfield County, Utah has said “no thank you,” to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ offer to transplant nuisance beavers from other parts of the state to the county to help restore high elevation wetlands, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

Although, if they had actually said “no thank you,” you probably wouldn’t be reading about this. What they did say was that they were afraid the beavers would become a tool for the environmental community to use against against cattle.

Utah DWR says that they’ll make the offer again another time.

Read the whole story in the Salt Lake City Tribune, and make sure to keep scrolling down past the ad, because there is more text after it.

(Thanks to Mountain West News for literally calling this story out with a quote at the top of their homepage, even though the story was a small one, on the second page.)


Nutria in Delaware: They’re Back

An alert fur-buyer tipped off the Delaware Department of Natural Resources to a breeding population of nutria just barely on the Delaware side of the state’s border with Maryland in the northern part of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Nutria, an invasive, nonnative rodent, have been found in the Chesapeake Bay/Delmarva Peninsula region for decades. But mostly they are in Maryland, and in 2002, Delaware thought it had eradicated the last of the its own breeding population of the animal.

Read the Delaware Department of Natural Resources press release on the find, here.

Read a news-story from Delaware Online, a Gannett Company, here. The story includes a link to a Google map showing the pond where the nutria group was found.

Find out more about nutria in the region from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project, here. This Web site has a map of nutria presence on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlilfe Service

Mites Hammer Western Gray Squirrels

Western gray squirrel populations have been declining throughout their range. Recently the California Department of Fish and Game confirmed that the gray squirrel decline in the San Bernardino mountains is being caused by a mange mite, thought to be Notoedres centrifera.

The good news for local residents is that the mite effects only rodents, so dogs and other pets should be safe. The bad news is that the free lunch for squirrels at backyard bird feeders is contributing to the problem, allowing the mite to spread when squirrels gather for a backyard buffet.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise has the news story.

The press release from California Fish and Game has more detail, plus a discussion of other possible causes of the squirrel’s decline.

In other squirrel news, and yes, there is other squirrel news, the squirrel pox that has been killing off native red squirrels in Britain has arrived in Northern Ireland. Squirrel pox was introduced to the region along with North American gray squirrels. The gray squirrels are carriers, and don’t show symptoms. Find the BBC story here.

Photo: Western gray squirrel with no apparent mange symptoms. Click on either of the mange story links for a photo of a symptomatic squirrel. Photo courtesy of California Fish & Game.