Examination of the Tick Burden on Sika Deer

In Dorchester County, Maryland

M. Chad Smith1, David Kalb2, Sean Q. Dougherty2, Matthew Muma2, Dr. Jacob Bowman2, Dr. Thomas Lambert1

1, Frostburg State University Wildlife Biology Department. 2, University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology



Sika deer (Cervus nippon - yakushimae) are native to the

Japanese Islands and were introduced to Maryland’s eastern

shore in 1916. Since then, they have increased in number to

an estimated 5,000 - 10,000. Although mainly centered in

Dorchester County Maryland, sika deer have expanded

their range to include Wicomico, Somerset and Worchester

Counties (Maryland DNR 2009).

The MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) strives to maintain this

population and increase it where possible (Eyler and Timko

2008). Understanding the overall ecological niche that Sika

deer occupy is important for implementing herd

management strategies. Ticks are parasitic to deer and

infestation can affect the overall health of deer. Ticks are

vectors for Lyme Disease and Meningoencephalitis which

can affect humans through exposure to tick bites. Currently

the DNR is conducting a study on the dispersal range of

juvenile stags using radio collars and bi-angulation. This

project is monitoring the distance year old stags move from

their capture area. Ticks were a secondary objective in each

capture. These projects are taking place on the Tudor Farms

Property, located to the Northeast of Blackwater NWR.

Tick burdens were determined on live sika deer and related

deer age and size. 2 species of tick (Ammblyomma

americanum the Lone Star; and Ixodes scapularius the Deer

Tick), were found on the deer examined in this study.

Study Area

Dorchester County MD is primarily forested (41%) with large tracts of wetlands (25%) and

agriculture (30%). Less than 5% is developed (Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program

2003). Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Fishing Bay Wildlife Management area make up a

large portion of the center of Dorchester County. The study took place on private land, The

Tudor Farms, located along the Chicamacomico and Transquaking Rivers to the Northeast of

Blackwater. Future study areas may include the TarBay Hunt Club property located on the

Chesapeake Bay, two miles north of Hooper’s Island on Meekin’s Neck to the west of

Blackwater NWR. Habitat at the Tudor Farms and TarBay Hunt Club is a mix of tidal salt marsh

and hard/soft wood forests. The open marsh habitat is exposed to high amounts of

sunlight in the middle of the marshes where there is no forest canopy or tree-line



Deer were captured during February and March 2009.

Drop nets and Clover (Box) traps baited with corn were used.

Net capture activities were focused at night while box traps were checked twice daily.

All deer captured were ear tagged & the animal’s age, sex and weight were determined.

The anterior region of each deer was examined for ticks. All observed ticks were collected for later

species level identification.

Results and Discussion

During February and March 2009, Ten Sika Deer

were captured (2 Juvenile Stags, 1 Adult Stag; 3

Juvenile Hinds, 4 Adult Hinds) and examined for


The difference in tick burden may relate

to differential use of habitat as deer age. Ticks

were found on 4 of these 10 deer.

Deer with ticks were significantly older

(Mean=22.5 months S.D.= 6.5) than deer without

ticks (Mean= 14 months, S.D.=2.82) (Tobs=

3.374, d.f.=8, p=0.034). Additionally, deer with

ticks were significantly larger (Mean=54.75 kg,

S.D.=21.98) than deer without ticks (Mean=25.83

kg, S.D.=7.17) (Tobs=3.537, d.f.=8, p=0.034).

The older deer have spend greater amounts of

time in fields and forest edge-lines, increasing

tick predation. These edge areas are dryer and

more conducive to tick populations. As animals

mature more time is spent in this habitat rather

than the wet habitat of the marsh, resulting in

high tick burdens on older deer.


• University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology

• The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Heritage Division;

Mr. Brian Eyler

• Frostburg State University Biology Department;

Dr. Wayne Yoder, Dr. Tom Lambert.

• Mr. Paul Tudor Jones, The Tudor Farms, Tudor Staff of Dorchester County, MD.

• Mr. Phil Green and Mr. Bob Smith of TarBay Hunt Club Inc., Dorchester County, MD


• Assist the Main DNR Deer Project

• Determine the tick species present on Sika deer.

• Relate tick burden to deer age and size.

Sika Deer

Lone Star Tick

Amblyomma americanum

Last Updated- April 2019

Lucy Barnes