The ecology of tick-transmitted infections in the redwood chipmunk (Tamias ochrogenys)

Janet E. Foley, Nathan C. Nieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The redwood chipmunk contributes to the maintenance of tick-borne diseases in northern California. The range of redwood chipmunks overlaps that of western black-legged ticks and tick-borne disease, including granulocytic anaplasmosis and Lyme borreliosis. Chipmunks have high Anaplasma phagocytophilum PCR- and seroprevalence, are infested with a diversity of Ixodes spp. ticks, and are reservoir competent for Borrelia burgdorferi. We hypothesized that chipmunks could maintain tick-borne disease on the forest floor while also potentially bridging infection to arboreal sciurids as well. We used radio-telemetry to evaluate chipmunk movement and use of trees, characterized burrows, described prevalence of tick-borne disease, and identified ticks on these chipmunks. A total of 192 chipmunks from Hendy Woods, Mendocino County, California, USA, was evaluated between November 2005 and April 2009. The mean density was 2.26-5.8chipmunks/ha. The longest detected life span was 3 years. Female weights ranged from 80 to 120g and males from 80 to 180g. The A. phagocytophilum and Borrelia spp. seroprevalence was 21.4% and 24.7%, respectively, and PCR prevalence for these pathogens was 10.6% and 0%, respectively. Ixodes spp. ticks included I. angustus, I. ochotonae, I. pacificus, and I. spinipalpis. The mean infestation level was 0.92 ticks/chipmunk. Based on telemetry of 11 chipmunks, the greatest distance traveled ranged from 0.14 to 0.63km for females and 0.1-1.26km for males. Areas occupied by chipmunks ranged from 0.005 to 0.24km 2 for females and 0.006-0.73km 2 for males. On 3 occasions, chipmunks were found in trees. Burrows were identified under a moss-covered redwood log, deep under a live redwood tree, under a Douglas fir log, in a clump of huckleberry, in a root collection from an overturned Douglas fir tree, and in a cluster of exposed huckleberry roots. The biology of the redwood chipmunk has multiple features that allow it to be an important reservoir host for tick-borne disease in northwestern California.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-93
Number of pages6
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum
  • Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato
  • Borrelia spp.
  • Relapsing fever
  • Reservoir
  • Rodent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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