Poncho Ortega, Ph.D.; East Foundation Wildlife and Research Manager, was a featured speaker at the recent U.S.-Mexico Cattle Fever Tick Summit held November 29-30, 2016, in Weslaco, Texas. The purpose of the meeting was for federal and state animal health regulatory officials, researchers, and industry representatives, from the U.S. and Mexico, to discuss monitoring, control, and eradication options and activities related to cattle fever tick (CFT) programs.
Poncho presented on the importance of nilgai antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) in the cattle fever tick reemergence in South Texas. Nilgai antelope were introduced to South Texas in the early 1930's. They have thrived in south Texas reaching a current estimate of 38,000 individuals from the original 12-20 that were originally introduced. Nilgai were originally reported to serve as hosts for CFT in Mexico and recently have been confirmed acting as a host in the US. They present a unique management challenge due to larger movements than native ungulates with the potential of dispersing the CFT to areas where they were eradicated previously.
The East Foundation in collaboration with USDA-Agriculture Research Service and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute have conducted a study that seeks to quantify several ongoing questions regarding nilgai movements. From this study we have learned that females have home ranges that are 20% larger than males; we detected no movements associated with weather condition variations; nilgai movements show no adverse response to helicopter activities; and fences running parallel to highways show to be an efficient barrier for free-ranging nilgai in South Texas.
For more information on the cattle fever tick: