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Winter ticks on moose not a concern to province

Marisca feels helpless when she sees tick-infested moose

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a concerned reader about moose and the ticks that they carry this season. She saw a sickly looking moose filled with ticks in her neighbourhood and wanted to know if the mild winter weather was affecting the animals and causing more ticks.

These ticks can feed on many different species but winter tick infestations are most commonly found in moose.

While they are not known to spread disease, they can be deadly to moose less than one year of age and decrease cow reproductivity.

Winter ticks can’t survive cold winters without a host and with a mild winter, these parasites can thrive.

After reading the email and doing some research, I went home to find a moose walking across my lawn. Was it a weird coincidence or is the problem that prevalent?

The moose in my yard had signs of ticks. It had hair missing from its legs and its fur had started to turn grey. It slowly sauntered down the road, leaving me also worried about the other moose in the area.

I so badly wish there was something I could do to help it. I reached out to the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship to get some answers. I asked about whether or not the mild winter weather caused more ticks this spring.

However, I was told they do not monitor winter tick load closely enough to get a good evaluation.

“Winter tick load of captured animals appears to be about normal, but we only had very few captures this year (as we are in the maintenance stage of the provincial moose project), so the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions based on these captures,” the email said.

I was also told there is no concern at this point about the moose population being affected and there is no recognized treatment for moose infected with winter ticks.

The ministry also noted that the risks to humans from winter ticks is also not a huge concern. The email stated that while winter ticks may parasitize humans in rare cases, these ticks do not carry diseases transmittable to humans and the meat of infected animals is suitable for eating.

Winter ticks can parasitize cattle and horses, but do not appear to cause disease in these species, either. Therefore, winter ticks pose a negligible risk to human or domestic animal health.

So, there isn’t much I can do. And according to the provincial government, it isn’t much of a concern.

Except to the moose.

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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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