Assessment of the Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) in sustaining Cattle Fever Tick populations in Puerto Rico
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The ectoparasite Rhiphicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, also referred to as Cattle Fever Tick (CFT), serves as the primary vector for the protozoan pathogen Babesia which causes bovine babesiosis in livestock and wildlife hosts. Current management practices in Puerto Rico are failing to control CFT prevalence resulting in major economic losses for the livestock industry on this island. One factor that has not been directly addressed is the pervasiveness of the invasive Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) in Puerto Rico and its potential to serve as an alternate Cattle Fever Tick host. For this study, radio-telemetry and ectoparasite sampling were conducted on mongooses at five farm sites in Puerto Rico to estimate habitat use and ectoparasite prevalence. I estimated the overlap of mongoose short-term home ranges within cattle pastures and compared utilized and non-utilized habitat types within an estimated area of habitat available to mongooses. Results suggest mongooses nonrandomly select for grasslands and a portion of all mongoose short-term home range estimates overlapped with corresponding farm sites. Cattle Fever Ticks were not found on any of the sampled mongooses, suggesting the mongoose is not serving as a host for CFT populations in Puerto Rico. These results suggest continued research is needed to evaluate other potential CFT hosts to implement improved management practices. This study also provides insight on movement patterns and habitat use for the highly invasive mongoose prevalent throughout many Caribbean islands.