Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ticks that have killed thousands of moose in New England and Canada now threaten Alaska

A cow moose in northern New Hampshire
shows hair loss typical of tick-infested animals
 (University of New Hampshire photo by Dan Bergeron)
A tick that has been blamed for killing thousands of moose in New England has now been confirmed in Canada, where it's infecting elk, mule deer and some moose, and is on its way to Alaska, Yereth Rosen reports for Alaska Dispatch News. Scientists have said the ticks, which have killed 70 percent of moose calves in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, are aided by warming temperatures and shorter winters that allow the parasites to survive longer.

"The ticks gather in the fall on forest plants, latch onto passing animals and stay there through the winter, swelling to the size of grapes as they feed off their hosts' blood," Rosen writes. "Tens of thousands of ticks can latch on to a single moose. They make the moose itchy, uncomfortable and prone to spending a lot of time and energy scratching, sometimes rubbing away fur, and too little time eating."

Peter Pekins of the University of New Hampshire, one of the lead scientists studying the disastrous impacts of winter ticks on New England moose, said "the average tick load on an infested moose is 40,000," Rosen writes. He said "a load of more than 40,000 ticks will use up a calf's entire blood supply in four weeks." Perkins said, "They get anemic, they have declining weight too, and that's just the end of them."

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