VICTORIA, B.C. – The annual Moose Winter Tick Surveillance Program in place by the BC Wildlife Health Program is again asking for help assessing the effects of winter ticks on the province’s moose population.
Winter ticks can have a significant impact on moose populations when climate and habitat conditions promote high tick numbers. Tick infestations can, at times, result in severe behavioural and physiological changes and directly affect the survival rates of moose, especially in younger animals.
Winter tick infestations are generally observed on moose during January through April. This species of tick goes through three life stages over the winter on one host. There can be as many as tens of thousands on an individual moose. As the ticks mature, they feed on the blood of the animal and can cause anemia. In late winter, tick irritation can cause moose to excessively scratch and groom themselves, resulting in hair loss and less time spent foraging, which can lead to weight loss. The extent of hair loss on a moose can be observed easily from a distance and is a rough indicator of how many ticks are present.
The program relies on observations from wildlife professionals, wildlife enthusiasts and the general public to:
- monitor the number of animals with hair loss;
- assess the amount of hair loss on each animal;
- estimate the overall prevalence and distribution of winter ticks.
Anyone interested in contributing to this surveillance program can fill out a survey online. Alternatively, the electronic survey can be saved and completed on a computer, tablet or mobile device and returned via email to; [email protected]
An online survey, downloadable survey forms and background information are available on the moose winter tick program page; CLICK HERE
Participants are asked to observe and report the amount of hair loss, if any, occurring on moose and check the survey box that most accurately describes the animal’s appearance. There are five categories, ranging from “no hair loss” to “more than 80% loss of winter hair.”
The findings of the surveillance program will contribute to the Provincial Moose Research Program, which was initiated in 2013 to investigate factors influencing moose populations in British Columbia.
For more information, email; [email protected]