European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 313–322 | Cite as

Investigating the loss of recruitment potential in red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus): the relative importance of hen mortality, food supply, tick infestation and louping-ill

  • R. J. Irvine
  • M. H. Moseley
  • F. Leckie
  • J. Martínez-Padilla
  • D. Donley
  • A. Miller
  • M. Pound
  • F. Mougeot
Original Paper


Ticks and their pathogens cause significant disease and economic loss in many animal populations. Despite this, experiments that test the impact of ticks and tick-borne diseases on wild animal populations are rare. Here, we report on an experiment assessing the effect of ticks on red grouse productivity and chick growth in relation to other causes of poor recruitment at two sites in the Scottish uplands during 2005. Treated hens received two leg bands impregnated with the acaricide permethrin, while controls hens were untreated. Chicks were captured at c.2 weeks of age and fitted with a metal patagial tag, and chicks from treated hens also received a permethrin-impregnated strip. Mean tick burdens in treated chicks were close to zero compared with a mean of around 12 in the control group. Although treatment reduced tick infestations, it did not increase brood size. Growth rates in chicks from control and treated hens were similar during the first 10 days and comparable with chicks fed an ad-lib invertebrate-based diet. These results suggest that in this case, neither ticks (and the tick transmitted louping-ill virus) nor food shortages was the main cause of chick mortality. However, mortality in the adult hens was around 35 %, and predation accounted for 62 % of these losses before broods fledged. Our results indicate that on our study sites, predation may have a more important impact on grouse population dynamics than ticks and tick-borne disease. We suggest that it may be more cost effective to determine the causes of poor grouse population performance before implementing popular but expensive tick control measures such as the culling of alternative hosts and running acaracide treated sheep ‘tick-mop’ flocks.


Food supply Louping-ill virus Mortality Recruitment Red grouse Ticks 



This project was co-funded by Marquis of Lansdowne, Henry Keswick, Charles Pearson and Charles Gladstone. MM received a grant from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Trust. LIV seroprevalence was provided by the Moredun Research Institute. Young chicks were located by Coll and Tiree. The project relied heavily on the preparatory work of DD. The field work was carried out whilst RJI, FL, JMP and FRM were affiliated to the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and MM was registered at the University of Pretoria, 0028, South Africa


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. J. Irvine
    • 1
  • M. H. Moseley
    • 2
    • 3
  • F. Leckie
    • 4
  • J. Martínez-Padilla
    • 5
  • D. Donley
    • 6
  • A. Miller
    • 7
  • M. Pound
    • 7
  • F. Mougeot
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.The James Hutton InstituteAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Dukes Veterinary PracticeDykehead FarmAboyneUK
  3. 3.Centre for Wildlife ManagementUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.Natural Research Projects LtdBrathens Business ParkBanchoryUK
  5. 5.Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias NaturalesMadridSpain
  6. 6.Head Keeper’s House, Hunthill, Lethnot, EdzellAngusUK
  7. 7.Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research LaboratoryKerrvilleUSA
  8. 8.Instituto de Investigacion en Recursos Cinegeticos (IREC-CSIC, UCLM, JCCM)Ciudad RealSpain
  9. 9.Estacion Experimental de Zonas Aridas (EEZA, CSIC)AlmeriaSpain

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