First catch me

2019-03-07 03:07:02

By Matt Walker A CONTRAPTION that automatically fits deer with a pesticide-impregnated collar is helping to tackle the menace of Lyme disease, which is usually spread by ticks that live on the deer. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Flu-like symptoms and a severe rash may quickly be followed by heart problems and meningitis, which can prove fatal. It is one of the fastest-spreading infectious diseases in the US, with over 10 000 cases reported each year, a 32-fold increase since 1982. The infection is transmitted when people are bitten by ticks carrying the bacterium. Ideas for control have ranged from developing human vaccines to releasing a fungus that attacks the Lyme disease ticks and kills them. Some 95 per cent of Lyme disease cases in the US occur in the northeastern states, where the numbers of the ticks’ main host, the white-tailed deer, are on the increase, says biologist Mat Pound of the US Agricultural Research Service in Kerrville, Texas. “If we can treat the deer, the deer will actually go out, pick up the ticks and kill them,” he says. Trapping and treating every deer in a forest with pesticides isn’t easy, so Pound has designed a machine to do it. The animals are lured to a feeding tray where they have to place their heads in a V-shaped trough to get to the food. Pound’s machine keeps an open pesticide-impregnated collar at the ready, drooping next to the trough where the deer will put its neck. As the animal takes the food, its neck presses down on a switch that triggers a spring-loaded arm. This propels one end of the open collar over the neck where it meets the other end. The two ends join using velcro, so within seconds of the animal’s arrival the collar is complete. Pound’s tests have shown that the deer are not distressed by the collars, and that they eliminate the ticks. Wildlife Management Technologies in Noank,