Vermont's First 'Turkey-Tick Survey' Finds Many More Turkey's than Ticks
By Patti Casey | VAAFM Environmental Surveillance Program Director
May 4, 2022 - The VT Agency of Agriculture’s Environmental Surveillance Program conducted a Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) surveillance effort on harvested wild turkeys in collaboration with VT Fish & Wildlife over Youth Turkey Weekend (4/23 and 4/24) and Opening Day of regular turkey season (5/1) at 6 check stations located around Vermont. Volunteers staffed the stations from at least 8 am to 12 pm on all three days and inspected all reported birds for ectoparasites with hunter permission. Harvest location and hunter tag information was recorded for all birds.
Volunteers inspected about 100 wild turkeys and only one tick was found (in Addison County), a Black-Legged (Deer) Tick, Ixodes scapularis. Most turkeys also had lice. No Lone Star Ticks were recovered from any turkeys.
The study was designed to find Lone Star Ticks. Our previous surveillance efforts, including dragging, flagging, and citizen- and veterinarian-submitted ticks, have produced very few Lone Star Ticks in Vermont, although neighboring states report having them. Wild turkeys are a known host of Lone Star Ticks. These ticks are of interest because they are capable of transmitting diseases of human concern, including ehrlichiosis and alpha-gal syndrome (red meat allergy).
Check stations included those that were as close to areas where we have found any ticks in the past, and an area of Caledonia County that was believed to have a population of Lone Star Ticks in past decades, according to a previous State Entomologist. Selected check stations were located in Addison, Bennington, Caledonia, Rutland, Washington, and Windsor Counties.
Questions about the study can be directed to Patti Casey at Patti.Casey@Vermont.gov.