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In New Zealand there are four species of lice known to infest deer, however only two are significant:
- Sucking lice - Linognathus vituli (long-nosed sucking louse)
- Chewing lice - Damalinia bovis (also known as Bovicola bovis)
Linognathus vituli (sucking lice) is the most common louse in New Zealand. Adults are 2-3mm in length, with a long, narrow head and a yellowish-brown body that appears bluish due to ingested blood. They are usually found on protected areas of the skin and are generally more prevalent on younger dairy stock.
Damalinia bovis (biting lice) is found on deer of all ages. Its mouthparts are adapted for chewing and it feeds on debris on the skin such as dead skin cells, secretions and bacteria. This parasite is often found in colonies, which sometimes appear as circular, crusty lesions, but may spread all over in winter.
Lice cause irritation of the skin and stimulate scratching, rubbing and licking leading to restlessness, damage to hair coat or fleece and hides and loss of milk production. Lice appear in larger numbers during autumn and winter when the climate is more favourable for lice.