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A “ghost moose” (image credit: Dan Bergeron/N.H. Fish and Game Dept.)

Ticks Are Wreaking Deadly Havoc on Moose Populations – 90,000 Ticks Found on One Moose

Unless you are an opossum or turkey or hen, or a frog or squirrel, or another life form that dines on ticks, there is not much upside in interacting with these disease-carrying, blood sucking, parasitic arachnids.

But, yes, some animals enjoy ticks for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, a snack … you name it.  Aligned with and for more reading about this subject, we recommend a story, “These Animals That Eat Ticks Are Incredibly Beneficial To Outdoorsmen and Women,” written by David Smith and published in Wide Open Spaces on November 5, 2019.

Ticks are gross.  They are unsettling even to look at.

And it is beyond angst-inducing that tick populations are booming

They are surely booming in the region that ohDEER services: all of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands; the eastern part of Long Island, NY; and Central New Jersey.

Perhaps no animal, no living thing, has been harder hit and more injured by the growth of tick populations than has been the moose (Alces alces) living in the temperate zone of North America.

Globally, the prime habitat for moose, also called elk, are in the temperatesubarctic, and Arctic zones.

Yet moose numbers have been dropping dramatically in the temperate regions of North America, even as they remain relatively healthy and relatively stable in the subarctic and arctic.

Ticks are primarily the problem.

Specifically, it is the winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) that is wreaking havoc – lethal havoc – on moose.

Ticks are literally draining the life out of moose.  They are causing moose to die from blood loss.

As well, moose, especially young moose, will rub so aggressively against hard surfaces to remove irritating ticks that they scrape off their hair down to the skin – becoming what is called “ghost moose” – and lose a vitally important protective cover, and are susceptible to hypothermia when the weather gets cold.

About the only area that is in ohDEER territory where you will find a moose is in thick wooded areas of a stretch of geography that takes in Central to Western Massachusetts.

Moose are most plentiful – yet not nearly as plentiful as in years past – in Northern New England.

Ticks are killing, and have killed, thousands upon thousands of moose in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Five years ago, there were 76,000 moose in Maine. Today there are between 60,000 and 70,000 in the state.

In the past five years the number of moose in New Hampshire has been halved, from 10,000 to 5,000.

Vermont?  Please click here to be taken to a CNN story, “Huge numbers of ticks are wreaking havoc on the Moose population in Vermont,” written by Allen Kim that was published this past Tuesday.

As reported in the article, a single moose in Vermont was found to have as many as … now get ready … 90,000 ticks embedded in it.

It may come off as ironic to some that a solution that wildlife and environmental authorities are proposing to lessen the moose-tick problem, and to bring back moose populations, is to reduce, through hunting, density of moose in certain areas.  For it has been determined that in these places of relative high moose density are also those that allow the winter tick plenty of access to blood, which enables it to thrive.

It may be a matter of bringing down moose populations in the short term so that they can rise in the long term.

ohDEER will keep you updated on this important issue in future posts