Vermont scientists are looking for a new invasive tick this deer season
Scientists with the Agency of Agriculture are looking for a new type of invasive tick at deer weigh stations in southern Vermont this weekend.
The Longhorned tick has historically been found in the Eastern Hemisphere and likely made its way to the U.S. on livestock shipments. Now it's found in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, among other states.
Similar to the way winter ticks prey on moose, these ticks swarm their host. Like winter ticks, they prefer mammals like deer, sheep and cows over humans. The ticks can kill a cow or other large ruminant through blood loss and anemia.
Longhorned ticks can carry diseases that affect animals, but researchers are still trying to figure out whether the ticks can transmit them to humans.
Some female Longhorned ticks have developed a clever evolutionary hack: they can reproduce without mating with a male. This means they can spread fast once they reach a new area.
Patti Casey leads Vermont's tick surveillance program for Vermont's Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
"What they do do is just infest an animal and weaken them," Casey said of the ticks. "So they're pretty nasty."
"What they do do is just infest an animal and weaken them. So they're pretty nasty."Patti Casey, Environmental Surveillance Program director for AAFM
Casey said human caused climate change and sprawling development patterns are likely bringing more ticks to Vermont. In this case, the global trade of livestock was also a factor.
Farmers should look out for clusters of ticks on their livestock. If you find a tick you don't recognize, you can send a photo of it to the Agency of Agriculture. A good iPhone photo can be enough for scientists there to identify a tick.
Dr. Kate Levine is Vermont's Assistant State Veterinarian.
"Longhorned ticks are a great concern to livestock, both directly and indirectly," she said.
However, she said there are things farmers can do to protect their herds now, like talking with their herd veterinarian about regularly treating their animals with products designed to kill ticks.
"Products are available in dips, pour-ons and injectables," Levine said.
Patti Casey said finding the ticks early once they are here will be key for prevention, and farmers can help.
"If you see an animal that appears to be infested with ticks, pull a few off, put them in a vial and contact us," Casey said.
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or contact reporter Abagael Giles: