High whitetail numbers have been blamed for the spread of Lyme disease for years. But according to the latest research, we might be pointing our finger at the wrong critter. According to this story in a recent issue of Scientific American, a sharp decline in red fox populations may have gone a long way to making Lyme disease go viral in the last decade.
The red fox, as most of us know, is an efficient predator of small mammals like the white-footed mouse; known to be one of the prime hosts of the Lyme-carrying “deer” tick. Red fox numbers are in a general decline across the country, thanks largely to ever-growing coyote populations. Coyotes eat foxes whenever the populations overlap, which is frequently. Though both canines dine on mice, foxes take the greatest toll on the little rodents. So when fox numbers dive, mouse populations climb and ticks follow suit.