Indexed on: 07 Jun '11Published on: 07 Jun '11Published in: Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases
The redwood chipmunk contributes to the maintenance of tick-borne diseases in northern California. The range of redwood chipmunks overlaps that of western black-legged ticks and tick-borne disease, including granulocytic anaplasmosis and Lyme borreliosis. Chipmunks have high Anaplasma phagocytophilum PCR- and seroprevalence, are infested with a diversity of Ixodes spp. ticks, and are reservoir competent for Borrelia burgdorferi. We hypothesized that chipmunks could maintain tick-borne disease on the forest floor while also potentially bridging infection to arboreal sciurids as well. We used radio-telemetry to evaluate chipmunk movement and use of trees, characterized burrows, described prevalence of tick-borne disease, and identified ticks on these chipmunks. A total of 192 chipmunks from Hendy Woods, Mendocino County, California, USA, was evaluated between November 2005 and April 2009. The mean density was 2.26-5.8 chipmunks/ha. The longest detected life span was 3 years. Female weights ranged from 80-120 g and males from 80-180 g. The A. phagocytophilum and Borrelia spp. seroprevalence was 21.4% and 24.7%, respectively, and PCR prevalence for these pathogens was 10.6% and 0%, respectively. Ixodes spp. ticks included I. angustus, I. ochotonae, I. pacificus, and I. spinipalpis. The mean infestation level was 0.92 ticks/chipmunk. Based on telemetry of 11 chipmunks, the greatest distance traveled ranged from 0.14-0.63 km for females and 0.1-1.26 km for males. Areas occupied by chipmunks ranged from 0.005-0.24 km(2) for females and 0.006-0.73 km(2) for males. On 3 occasions, chipmunks were found in trees. Burrows were identified under a moss-covered redwood log, deep under a live redwood tree, under a Douglas fir log, in a clump of huckleberry, in a root collection from an overturned Douglas fir tree, and in a cluster of exposed huckleberry roots. The biology of the redwood chipmunk has multiple features that allow it to be an important reservoir host for tick-borne disease in northwestern California.