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New Lice Wreaks Havoc on Northern California Deer

deer-dfw

Photo courtesy: California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

SACRAMENTO-

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.