Is there anything we can do to prevent them?
QUESTION: Bob, I bowhunt in California where the weather is very hot and dry. The past few seasons, my bowkills have been literally covered with fleas and ticks.
I'd like to start a food plot with various offerings for deer. Is there anything I can do, such as adding some sort of flea meds to the mix, to help get rid of fleas and ticks on deer? - Kyle
ANSWER: Several factors affect ecto-parasite loads in deer; one is climate.
Warmer climates are more favorable to fleas and ticks while the mild winters allow more parasites to survive, procreate and infests hosts the following fall.
Deer health is less of a factor in how many "nits" attach themselves, but does influence how well the host can deal with its unwanted passengers.
I'm not aware of any research with deer, but I know winter ticks can literally bring a 1,000-pound moose to its knees.
Usually, a combination of factors will cause anemia, including blood loss and the stress of tens of thousands of tiny bites. Also, Moose have been known to scratch until their fur falls off, leaving them exposed to the elements.
It's possible to treat deer for ticks, and many years ago I saw a set of plans for a device to do just that.
More recently, the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service Office of Technology Transfer - granted an exclusive license of the ARS patented '4-Poster' Deer Treatment Bait Station to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc. You can look it up online: http://www.aldf.com/fourPoster2.shtml
It's also possible to provide medicated feed (corn) treated with acaricides like ivermectin.
However, in both cases research is still ongoing on how the amount of time required between application and when the venison is safe for human consumption.
In the final analysis, the best approach is to see that the deer have a healthy diet. If you can, hang your deer in a cold storage locker. Most parasites will jump ship within 24 hours of death.