Grooming behavior in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) related to infestation with winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus).
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ABSTRACT: Winter ticks are commonly found on North American cervidae, including captured reindeer. Many reindeer have been moved from northern herds, where ticks do not occur, to more southern game farms within the range of the winter tick. In captivity transmission rates can reach unnaturally high levels. Ticks can be removed from the host’s body by performing different kinds of grooming behavior, a behavior not yet elaborately investigated in reindeer. In this study we observed a group of reindeer infested with winter tick and a non infested group concerning their specific grooming behavior. A protocol for herd activity observations and a protocol for grooming observations in reindeer were developed during this study. More research is needed to determine what normal grooming of reindeer consists of and whether reindeer perform their grooming behavior by a stimulus-driven or programmed model. Since in programmed grooming ticks are being removed before they are fully grown and do much harm, this would have advantage in reindeer.