Experimental treatment of dog lice infestation in interior Alaska wolf packs


  • Associate Editor: Matt Gompper


Biting dog lice (Trichodectes canis) were first detected on wolves (Canis lupus) in Southcentral Alaska (USA) in 1981 introduced via domestic dogs. Lice infestation expanded north via wolf dispersal to the Tanana Flats of Interior Alaska in December 2003. Effects of this ectoparasite on wolves were persistent with moderate to severe clinical signs of pediculosis lasting multiple generations. Our objectives were to evaluate the extent of lice infestation on wolves within the Tanana Flats and develop a management program that limited further transmission. We implemented a treatment method that consisted of multiple applications of oral antiparasitic ivermectin-injected baits aerially distributed at den and rendezvous sites during mid-May through August. During 2005–2010, we evaluated 12–19 packs annually as part of a treatment group and 3 infested packs as a control. Infestation rates of treatment packs prior to treatment varied from 15% in 2005 (2 of 13), 50% in 2006 (7 of 14), 24% in 2007 (4 of 17), 5% in 2008 (1 of 19), and 0% in 2009–2010 (0 of 19). We treated 50%, 71%, and 75% of the infested treatment packs during 2005–2007, respectively. All treated packs were lice-free the winter following treatment, whereas all 3 control packs remained infested. The combination of treatment and harvest successfully eliminated the local source population of lice within 3 years and we found no evidence of lice infestation within the treatment area during the last 3 years of the study. By using this treatment method, managers can eliminate dog lice infestations of wolves in areas ≤13,000 km2. By initiating treatment promptly after detection, transmission to unexposed nearby packs can be postponed and the local source population of lice on wolves eradicated. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.