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As a measure of the risk for exposure to
Lyme disease, we estimated the distribution of host-seeking adults of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, on dairy farms in Barron County in northwestern Wisconsin. Vegetation ecotypes that were common to 18 farms that were representative of the county were surveyed by flag sampling. Tick prevalence and abundance, which were similar during fall and spring periods, were very low in farmhouse yards and forage croplands; only a single male was collected from 17 lawns. Sampling of 18 pastures with lactating cows also yielded only a single I. scapularis. In contrast, I. scapularis adults were captured in 9 of 37 samples from 18 pastures with heifers and dry cows; in those pastures, ticks were associated with woods and secondary vegetation or margins of pastures adjacent to woodlands. Blacklegged ticks were most prevalent and numerous in ungrazed woodlands; adults were captured in 27 of 53 samples on 13 of 15 farms, particularly when evidence of white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmermann), was apparent. The risk of encountering adult blacklegged ticks on dairy farms in Barron County, Wisconsin is therefore greatest in woodlands habitat. The presence of adult ticks in pastures with heifers and dry cows establishes an ecological basis for the exposure of dairy cattle to adult I. scapularis. Pastures with lactating cows, farmhouse yards, and forage croplands represent negligible risk.