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Parasitol Res. 2014 Apr;113(4):1489-97. doi: 10.1007/s00436-014-3790-3. Epub 2014 Feb 23.

Acute impacts of the deer ked (Lipoptena cervi) infestation on reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) behaviour.

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Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland,


Blood-sucking ectoparasites have often a strong impact on the behaviour of their hosts. The annual insect harassment of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) has increased in the southern part of the Finnish reindeer herding area because of the recent invasion of a blood-feeding ectoparasitic louse-fly, the deer ked (Lipoptena cervi). We studied the impact of the deer ked on the behaviour of reindeer. Twelve reindeer were infested with a total of 300 keds/reindeer on six occasions in a 5-week period during the deer ked flight season in autumn, while six non-infested reindeer were used as controls. Behavioural patterns indicating potential stress were monitored by visual observation from August to December. The infested reindeer displayed more incidences of restless behaviour than the controls. Shaking and scratching were the most common forms of restless behaviour after infestation of deer keds. Increased grooming was also observed after the transplantation and also later, 1 month after the infestation. Based on the results, the deer ked infestation can cause acute behavioural disturbance in reindeer and, thus, could pose a potential threat to reindeer welfare. Antiparasitic treatment with, e.g. ivermectin, may increase the welfare of parasitized reindeer by reducing deer keds. If the deer ked infestation intensity on the reindeer herding area increases and restless behaviour of reindeer becomes more common, the present results can help in further evaluation of the duration and magnitude of behavioural changes.

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