Peak year for winter ticks in New England reduces moose population


Moose are easy targets, but winter ticks aren't discriminatingthousands of ticks can clump on a single branch waiting for host.

Think tick season has been bad for dogs and cats this season? Any moose will tell you, it has been worse for them.

The moose population in New England-Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, specifically-has been reduced significantly due to the impact of a peak year in 2013 for winter ticks. Maine's moose population dropped from 76,000 in 2012 to somewhere between 65,000 and 70,000 in 2014, causing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to reduce the number of hunting permits by nearly a thousand this year.

According to a report by the University of New Hampshire, thousands of ticks can be found on one moose. Such infestation can cause significant blood loss at a time when forage quality is poorest.

The report also says that in late winter and early spring, heavily infested moose rub against trees and groom with their teeth and hooves, damaging the protective coat of hair and taking time away from feeding. As a result, heavily infested moose may have low fat reserves and damage to the thermal protection of their coat. Die-off occurs largely during April and can particularly affect calves, because of their smaller size.

After winter tick larvae hatch in August and September, they climb vegetation to wait for a host to brush by. The report says that in many cases they wait in clumps of a few to more than 1,000 at the tips of low vegetation-and they're happy to bite domestic animals and people as well as moose. Any animal that walks through vegetation with questing larvae is fair game.  However, as one-host ticks, winter ticks aren't known to pass diseases to humans or domestic animals.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) forecasted this to be a peak year for many varieties of ticks-increasing the risk for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. For free tools to train your team and educate clients about tick control and parasite prevention, check out dvm360's tick control toolkit.

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