Moose Die-Off Said To Be Caused by Blood-Sucking Ticks (Video)

Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013 07:11 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A moose die-off is occurring across North America as drastic declines have been measured in as far west as Montana and as far east as New Hampshire, as well as in Canada's British Columbia province. One culprit is the blood-sucking tick.

In Minnesota, where there were two separate moose populations 20 years ago, one population has declined from approximately 4,000 in the 1990s to less than 100 today. The other population is dropping at a rate of 25 percent per year recently. Originally consisting of 8,000 moose, it is now down to less than 3,000, The New York Times reported.

"Something’s changed," Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told The Times. DeCesare leads one of several efforts that are attempting to explain what is causing the decline with the hopes of one day being able to reverse it.

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Though researchers point to varied reasons that could be contributing to the moose decline in North America, most seem to stem from one source, climate change.

Winter ticks, the parasitical insect that latch onto its host for sustenance, have seen their populations increase significantly due to reportedly shorter winters and less snow in some parts of the country. Consequently, moose are living with an increased number of ticks on their bodies, which can cause them to become anemic. Also the miniscule parasites irritate their host to such an extent that the moose tear off large patches of hair in an attempt to remove the pest, and in the process lose their coats and suffer from hypothermia.

"You can get 100,000 ticks on a moose," Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish and Game Department, told The Times.

An example of a moose sickened by a tick infestation was caught on video (below) when a weak moose wandered into a Canadian Safeway supermarket in search of food. Witnesses described seeing the animal covered in ticks. It was tranquilized at the scene, but died several days later due to its tick infestation, CBC News reported.

Deer, which also suffer from winter ticks, have evolved to combat the problem resorting to self-grooming of one another to limit tick populations. However, while deer travel in packs, moose are solitary animals.

In addition to ticks, moose also suffer from brain worms and liver flukes, which thrive in moist environments that are produced when there are shorter winters.

Other factors that could contribute to the rising moose mortality rate is an increase in wolves in certain areas, particularly in Minnesota, as well as hunting, though in some states moose hunting has been suspended in response to the declining populations.




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