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County Feeding Deer to Control Ticks

As part of a new research study looking at a new method of controlling tick infestations, the Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist’s Office has deployed deer feeding stations in 20 locations across the county.

These stations are used to attract deer, using corn as bait. When the deer come to feed, they rub up against rollers treated with a pesticide used to kill ticks. A non-toxic dye is added to the rollers that will leave a pink streak on the deer that come in contact with the stations. The pink dye fades in three to four days.

Residents shouldn’t be alarmed if they notice raccoons, squirrels, or other creatures that may have come into contact with the pink dye at the feeding stations.

The three-year study examines the use of this technology as a way of controlling tick infestations on white-tailed deer and the practicality of the stations to treat free-roaming deer. Deer are the primary host of adult blacklegged ticks which transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, to humans.

Development of this study has been underway since 2009 and deployment of the stations is expected to last from 2012 through early 2015. The feeding stations have been deployed at the following locations: Sully Woodlands and Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. Laurel Hill Park and Braddock Park have been selected as control sites to collect additional tick data, minus deployment of the feeding stations.

The research study is being conducted by the Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist’s Office and the Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insects Program, with the support of the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The feeding stations are not presently available for legal commercial use in Virginia, so a special permit was issued by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The cost of the three-year study is approximately $380,000 and includes purchase and maintenance of the feeding stations and supplies, corn, pesticide, and technicians’ wages.