New Lice Wreaks Havoc on Northern California Deer

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Photo courtesy: California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife


A new, non-native form of lice is latching onto deer and doing damage.

“It itches, it causes irritations. They are biting, scratching, pulling out giant hunks of hair all over their body,” said Craig Stowers, with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s not only making the deer go bald; that baldness is actually killing them.

“If it’s in winter time when that happens, they have a big problem. They won’t be able to thermo-regulate. They will go into hypothermia and die,” said Stowers.

Predators are also taking advantage of the lice.

“Behavioral impacts associated with biting and licking themselves all the time might make [deer] more vulnerable to predators,” said Stowers.

Deer in Oregon have had this problem for years, but it’s relatively new to California. Biologist believe it was either brought here through illegal transportation of deer, or simply deer walking over the boarder.

“The first place we really noticed the syndrome showing up in northwest California, real close to the Oregon boarder,” said Stowers.

Over the last two years, wildlife officials have found the lice on deer in the Fresno area as well. Experts say it’s probably all throughout northern California.

“We don’t know the population impacts of this disease, we just know it’s not good for individual animals,” said Stowers.

So far, there is no cure for this problem. Researchers are working on that now. In the meantime, they ask if anyone sees one of these bald deer to call them so they can check it out.

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  • Wildlife94

    What is the species name of the non-native lice and where are they from? Who is working on the research and what have they found? Spell check your article before publishing. Boarder?

  • Super Lice Lady

    SACRAMENTO – As a Lice Specialist, I believe we can stop scratching our heads on how to find a "cure" for eradicating deer lice. It would definitely be a difficult process, because they are in the wild, but not impossible. As a Head Lice Specialist that performs Lice & Nit Removal Services throughout Central & Northern CA, and into parts of Nevada, I believe we could actually eradicate lice & their eggs infesting deer in CA & OR, and other states with deer population, by somehow keeping deer out of their environment for a little over 48-hours (lice will die without blood for this amount of time in the environment), then treating the deer by removing the lice & eggs using nontoxic methods of removal. After the deer are clean of lice & eggs, they could be put safely back into their environment. I would not recommend using harsh pesticides for treatment, since this could cause secondary skin infections, especially if the skin is already opened and inflamed. I would gladly help the Dept of Fish & Wildlife in coming up with a solution in eradicating these parasites from our deer communities, since I truly believe this is definitely possible & quite fascinating to say the least. "Spread the word, not the lice!" Respectfully submitted – Super Lice Lady Deanna Fox – A Super Lice & Nit Removal Service