Grad student conducting coyote research
BY KEVIN WOODRUFF
East Stroudsburg University graduate student Kimberly Harle was on hand for last weekend’s District 9 Trappers Association Coyote Hunt for an important reason.
Harle, of Berks County, was there taking samples to look for tick-borne diseases in the animals.
She explained that there are five main tick-borne diseases found in coyotes, which include, Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.
Mainly, Harle and her team collected a spleen sample from each coyote, with hopes of assembling important data.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to set a primer for disease prevalence throughout the state of Pennsylvania,” Harle said.
She added that the group is targeting coyotes because they can serve as a reservoir for the disease.
She had hoped to get around 40-50 samples from the Tunkhannock hunt this weekend but was content with getting data fgrom the 21 animals brought in, as well as from other hunts throughout the state which should make for around 300 samples.
Other samples will be coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“The bigger the sample, the better,” Harle said. “The more we can get, the better we will be able to figure out prevalence rates for these diseases.”
Harle said she found out about the hunt through talking with local trappers in her area, who referred her to the Pennsylvania Trappers Association.
The results of the research will likely help the Game Commission in coming up with wildlife management plans.
The diseases that Harle is focused on come from three different types of ticks, with the most serious disease being Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is carried by the “lonestar tick.”
A deer tick, which is the most prevalent throughout the state, is known to carry Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease.
When handling the samples throughout the weekend hunt, Harle said that it was important for her to use sterile practices, especially when dealing with the possibility of diseases.
Her lab at East Stroudsburg, the Northeast Wildlife DNA lab, has certain protocols for handling the samples.
In addition to Harle and her assistants, Willy Wenner from the USDA wildlife services unit in Taylor was on hand at the hunt taking samples from the coyotes for other research projects.