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J Wildl Dis. 2023 Jan 3. doi: 10.7589/JWD-D-22-00008. Online ahead of print.
Sylvatic plague is a widespread, primarily flea-vectored disease in western North America. Because plague is highly lethal to endangered black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes, BFFs) and the prairie dogs (Cynomys spp., PDs) on which BFFs depend for habitat and prey, minimizing the impacts of plague is a priority at BFF reintroduction sites. We developed a new, flour-based bait pellet containing 0.84 mg of fipronil and weighing ∼1.25 g (FipBits). We measured the degree and duration of flea control on black-tailed PDs (BTPD; Cynomys ludovicianus) in Montana and on Gunnison’s PDs ( Cynomys gunnisoni) in Arizona, USA from 2018-2020. FipBits were distributed on treated plots one time at a rate of 125/ha. Fleas were virtually eliminated in Montana from 1 mo posttreatment to 1 yr later and remained substantially depressed 2 yr posttreatment. With the split colony design, we probably underestimated the degree of flea control achieved with FipBits due to crossover edge effects along the arbitrary line dividing the plots. Flea control in Arizona was significant from 1 mo posttreatment to 1 yr later, but flea abundance had recovered by 2 yr posttreatment. Flea control was evaluated from 2020-2021 in South Dakota, USA on four plots treated with three concentrations of fipronil in FipBits (0.68, 0.71, and 0.83 mg/FipBit). Fleas were essentially eliminated for 10 mo on the 0.83-mg plot and were substantially reduced on the two 0.71-mg plots. Fleas were reduced on the 0.68-mg plot, but the degree of control was less than observed on other treated plots. Impacts of plague on PDs and BFFs would probably be greatly reduced by the levels of flea control observed with FipBits. Options for expanded FipBit evaluations are being pursued for what may become a highly practical, affordable, and effective plague mitigation tool.
Keywords: Cynomys; Mustela nigripes; Yersinia pestis; Black-footed ferret; fipronil; flea control; plague.
© Wildlife Disease Association 2023.
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