Abstract:

In the midwestern United States, ermine (Mustela erminea) are economically important because they are legally harvested for pelts. Information on parasites of ermine is lacking, and the effects that nematode parasites have on body condition of ermine hosts are unknown. We identified Skrjabingylus nasicola and Filaroides martis in ermine trapped from 2007 to 2013 from 6 counties in Wisconsin. Small mammals, commonly consumed by ermine, serve as paratenic hosts for both parasites. Our goal was to identify how age and sex of ermine, along with year, influence nematode parasitism. We also investigated how infection affected body condition for male and female ermine using body mass standardized by length as an index of body condition. We commonly found S. nasicola and F. martis in male and female ermine, but both prevalence and intensity of infection were higher for males. Relative to juveniles (<1 yr), adult (>1 yr) male ermine did not exhibit significantly higher intensity or prevalence of either parasite. We found that body condition was not compromised by infection for either sex, and intensity of S. nasicola and prevalence of F. martis were highest during the 2010–2011 trapping season. Of the 6 yr studied, precipitation was highest during the summer before the 2010–2011 season, and increased precipitation can cause increases in populations of gastropod intermediate hosts. We think that several distinct natural history components, namely, mating structure, diet, and metabolic rate, influence nematode parasitism in ermine.

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