Winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) are an aggressive one-host tick that infest a wide-diversity of ungulates. Infestations can result in anemia, alopecia, emaciation, and death. Most notably, the winter tick has caused negative impacts to moose (Alces alces) populations in the northeast United States and Canada. Winter ticks have been identified on other cervid species, including deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and elk (Cervus canadensis), which generally results in low tick burdens and mild or no disease. Recently, however, a wild yearling bull elk in Pennsylvania was found dead as a result of severe winter tick infestation. To obtain baseline data on winter ticks in wild elk in Pennsylvania, we collected 1453 ticks from 190 hunter-harvested wild elk between 2017–2018. Of the 204 harvested elk, 94.3% (190/204) had ticks collected for this study and none of the sampled elk had evidence of winter-tick associated disease. The average tick burden was 7.7 ticks/elk and average winter tick load on all elk was 0.5. Results of this study indicate that winter ticks do infest wild elk in Pennsylvania. However, during the fall months, the tick burden is low and rarely associated with lesions. These data herein serve as a baseline to monitor winter tick populations over time.
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