Ticks parasitizing Mustelids

Ixodes hexagonus nymph on stone marten
Ixodes hexagonus nymph on stone marten

I have been working on Mustelids for several years now, mainly focussing on the study of traffic victims collected by volunteers throughout the Netherlands. Since I started my PhD research, another aspect of Mustelids has caught my attention, and that is the ectoparasite burden of Mustelids, with of course ticks as a main interest.

Although my sample size is still quite small, I can say that most Mustelids I have studied so far are parasitized by ticks. I have hardly found an individual without ticks! Even a picture I took several years ago of a female pine marten looking out of her denning tree includes a tick! Most individuals however are parasitized by only a few ticks, of two  species: Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes hexagonus.

I found that badgers, pine martens and stone martens feed several ticks on average, with a nice distribution of both tick species. The few polecats I studied, however, were infested with many ticks (one individual carried more than 600 ticks!), mainly Ixodes hexagonus. It seems that polecats are important hosts for this tick species, although very little is known about it (I have yet to find a published study on polecat tick burdens). Seems like there is enough to do in the coming year on this front! I will try to keep you updated.

Pine marten female with tick
Pine marten female with tick
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