Due to recent establishment of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, in southeastern Canada, tick-borne zoonoses (Lyme disease, human granulocytotropic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis) are of growing concern forpublic health. Using white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) culled in southwestern Quebec during 2007–2008, we investigated whether hunter-killed deer could act as sentinels for early establishing tick populations and for tick-borne pathogens. Accounting for environmental characteristics of culling sites, and age and sex of deer, we investigated whether their tick infestation levels could identify locations of known tick populations detected in active surveillance, presumed tick populations detected by passive surveillance, or both. We also used spatial cluster analyses to identify spatial patterns of tick infestation and occurrence of tick-borne zoonoses infection in ticks collected from the deer. Adult ticks were found on 15% of the 583 deer examined. Adult male deer had the greatest number (≈90%) of adult ticks. Overall, 3, 15, and 0% of the ticks collected were polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Babesia microti, respectively. Our statistical analyses suggest that sex and age of deer, temperature, precipitation, and an index of tick dispersion by migratory birds were significantly associated with tick infestation levels. Cluster analysis identified significant clusters of deer carrying ticks PCR-positive for A. phagocytophilum, and for deer carrying two or more I. scapularis. Our study suggests that hunterkilled deer may be effective as sentinels for emerging areas of tick-borne anaplasmosis. They may have limited use as sentinels for early emerging I. scapularis tick populations and emerging Lyme disease risk.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2