Monitoring Moose For Winter Ticks – Your Help Needed
poster courtesy BCGov
Prince George, BC – For the second year in a row, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations is looking to the public for help in monitoring BC’s moose population for winter ticks.
Regional Wildlife Biologist, Mike Bridger, says the findings are another ‘piece’ in the population management puzzle. “We definitely have pretty strong evidence that there’s been declines in moose populations in certain regions within the province, specifically within the Central Interior.” According to ministry figures, BC’s moose population was estimated to be between 120-thousand to 205-thousand in 2014.
“There is ongoing moose research right now to try to determine what is influencing the population decline – winter tick may play a role,” says Bridger. “I don’t personally believe that they are a significant factor, but they could be part of the puzzle.”
Last year served as a pilot for the citizen surveillance program, which helps BC Wildlife health staff monitor both the severity of infestations and the distribution of tick outbreaks across the province.
Bridger says most of the surveys came from the Prince George-Omineca Region, the Peace Region (Dawson Creek and Fort St John), and the Skeena Region near Smithers. “We had very good results and a lot of input from the public, so we’re hoping to receive that again this year and, hopefully, exceed last year’s observations.”
Wildlife staff have developed a model to potentially predict the severity of tick infestations based on winter weather – snowpack level and temperatures. With last year being so mild, Bridger is expecting to see fairly high tick numbers this year. And, based on this year’s almost non-existent winter, tick infestations could be very severe next year.
The implications of a tick infestation are serious. There can be as many as tens of thousands of winter ticks on one moose. As they mature, the ticks feed on the animal’s blood and can cause anemia. Bridger says moose become distracted with ticks, spending a lot of time rubbing and scratching, and less time foraging and being vigilant for prey. The extent of hair loss is a rough indicator of the number of ticks present and that’s what citizens are being asked to document.
Anyone interested in contributing to the surveillance program can click here to download a copy.