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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI researchers launch townwide effort to reduce tick populations in Narragansett

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 23, 2004 -- In the largest tick control project in the nation, two University of Rhode Island researchers are using a device called a 4-Poster to kill Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks where they concentrate and are most vulnerable -- on deer.

In a pilot project funded by a $910,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Entomology Professor Thomas Mather and Research Associate Nathan Miller will launch the program in October in Narragansett, which has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease infection in the state.

"This is a demonstration project designed to work with a local municipality and guide them through the process of tick control," said Mather, director of the URI Center for Vector Borne Disease. "This is the first time anyone has done tick control on such a large scale to see if it reduces the incidence of disease."

The 4-Poster is a bait station designed to attract deer to feed on corn in a trough. To reach the bait, the deer must rub their head and neck on one of four 10-inch posts -- like paint rollers -- impregnated with pesticide. Since 90 percent of ticks feeding on deer are found on their head and neck, the 4-Poster pesticide treatment kills the large majority of ticks.

The device was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was tested in five states, including Rhode Island, from 1997 to 2002. It does not increase deer populations. Regulations for its use require the bait station be placed no closer than 100 yards from a house or playground.

"Our plan is to put out 40 bait stations in the areas of town where the deer population and Lyme disease risk are highest," explained Miller. "We want to make sure every deer in the area uses one regularly."

Adult ticks are most active in mid-fall and again in early spring, so the researchers plan to place the 4-Poster in appropriate locations in October. The project also will determine the best means of regularly maintaining and restocking the device during these peak times.

"We are looking forward to working with town officials, deer-impacted land owners, and perhaps even volunteer organizations," said Miller.

One of the project's goals is to determine how a municipality would implement and maintain an area-wide tick control effort. As a final product of the study, Mather and Miller will create an implementation manual that other municipalities can follow in developing a tick control program for their communities.

"Right now we want to let the residents know about the project and gain their acceptance and support," Mather said. "Rhode Island is leading the way in tick control, and we believe this project can have a significant impact on deer tick populations and Lyme disease rates in the state."