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Department of Biology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota.
Sylvatic plague affects many species in North American prairie ecosystems. Deltamethrin is commonly used to manage fleas in potential outbreak areas. Understanding the role of small mammals and their ectoparasites in sylvatic plague maintenance is pertinent to understanding the ecology of plague and its persistence in nature. This study examined the effects of plague management using deltamethrin on communities of small mammals, their flea faunas, and Yersinia pestis prevalence. We trapped small mammals from 2014 to 2016 on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation (LOBR), South Dakota, and analyzed the effects of deltamethrin treatment on small mammal populations, flea loads, and Y. pestis prevalence. We collected higher flea loads from small mammals on sites not treated with deltamethrin (1.10 fleas per animal) than from deltamethrin-treated sites (1.03 fleas per animal). We observed significant negative trends in mean flea load per animal between pre- and post-treatment collections. We detected no significant effects of deltamethrin treatment on animal captures pre- and post-treatment, but observed significant differences in animal captures by experimental unit. We detected no serological evidence for the presence of Y. pestis antibodies in small mammals and 1.2% Y. pestis prevalence across all sampled fleas. Although there is little overlap in the species of fleas infesting small mammals and prairie dogs, the occurrence of flea spillover has been documented. In our study, treatment with deltamethrin reduced flea loads on small mammals by up to 49%. Our data suggest that although the efficacy of deltamethrin on the LOBR-a mixed-grass system-may not be as high as that found in a comparable study in a short-grass system, deltamethrin is still a useful tool in the management of plague.
; South Dakota; deltamethrin; fleas; plague management; small mammals