The distribution of Dermacentor hunteri and Anaplasma sp. in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).
The ixodid tick Dermacentor hunteri has been collected intermittently this century, primarily from desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Anaplasma spp. are intraerythrocytic rickettsial parasites of ungulates and are vectored in the western United States by ticks of the genus Dermacentor. We tested the hypotheses that D. hunteri would be found infesting all populations of desert bighorn, and that all infested populations would be seropositive for Anaplasma sp. Dermacentor hunteri was found on desert bighorn throughout their range in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, but not in any portion of the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico and eastern Arizona or in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Using an indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IIF), 8 populations of desert bighorn in California with D. hunteri were seropositive for Anaplasma sp. (n = 160). Four populations of desert bighorn with D. hunteri in Arizona (n = 69), 1 in Nevada (n = 22), and I in Utah (n = 14) with D. hunteri were seronegative. Six populations of desert bighorn were uninfested with D. hunteri and were also seronegative. Of these populations, 1 was in California (n = 19), 2 were in New Mexico (n = 33), 2 were in Utah (n = 30), and 1 was in Baja California Sur (n = 14). We found no support for either of our original hypotheses and concluded that both D. hunteri and Anaplasma sp. are limited in their distribution among desert bighorn. We also suggest a cautionary approach to translocations of desert bighorn given the high prevalence of ticks and the unknown effects of Anaplasma sp. on free-ranging bighorn.