Annual moose winter tick surveillance program seeks input on survey

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VICTORIA, B.C. – The BC Wildlife Health Program is asking for help assessing the effects of winter ticks on the province’s moose population as part of its annual moose winter tick surveillance program.

The program relies on observations from wildlife professionals and the public to monitor the number of moose with hair loss and assess the amount of hair loss on each individual. This information is used to estimate the overall prevalence and distribution of winter ticks

Winter tick infestations can be observed on moose from January through April. The ticks spend the entire winter on one host. There can be tens of thousands of ticks on one moose.

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As the female ticks mature, they feed on the blood of the moose in late winter. The irritation causes moose to scratch and groom themselves excessively, resulting in hair loss and less time spent foraging or resting, 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.

Tick infestations can result in behavioural and physiological changes that may directly affect the survival rates of moose, especially in younger individuals. Winter ticks can contribute to moose population declines, especially when climate change and habitat conditions promote high tick numbers.

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 FLNRMooseTickSurvey@gov.bc.ca

An online survey, downloadable survey forms and background information are available on the moose winter tick program; CLICK HERE

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.

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