December 18, 2017

Winter Ticks Haven’t Figured Out Where to Ambush the Moose

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Nathan Terriault has a “Special to the Bangor Daily News” about his belief that perhaps the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) should be providing more moose permits rather than fewer. Much of this is substantiated by the notion that there are too many moose – at least in some places – and as a result the moose population is not healthy, i.e. malnourished and carrying hundreds and thousands of winter ticks making the moose anemic and susceptible to exposure and predation. I might add that moose are also carrying or infected with what MDIFW likes to call “lungworm” but what I would call Hydatid cysts from the Echinococcus granulosus eggs carried by wild canines. These cysts also make the moose more susceptible to escaping or fleeing from harm by predators.

Terriault’s piece is well thought out and I would have to agree with much of what he is saying, as I have recently written questioning whether MDIFW is attempting to grow and perpetuate too many moose due to social demands rather than devising desired populations based on scientific evidence.

However, I have to snickeringly take issue with one comment that was made, not so much as a means of correcting Mr. Terriault but to make sure that readers better and more accurately understand about winter ticks. Terriault writes:

Forestry practices, such as clearcutting and strip cutting, concentrates cover for moose and funnels animals through areas where ticks lie in wait for host animals.

This is true information but it might lead some to think that the ticks have actually figured out exactly where these moose “funnel” and go there and wait; much the same way large predators do. A tick’s life cycle, part of which begins when the ticks (female) drop from the moose in Spring. From that point, wherever the drop occurred, the tick larvae and the tick do not travel any great distances – by human standards – and these drop zones are not necessarily within one of these “funnel” corridors. In the late Summer and early Fall, the tick climbs vegetation wherever they are and they wait, hoping to catch a ride on a passing moose. If they don’t catch a ride, they die. It’s that simple.

From the moment a tick attaches itself to a moose, where that tick ends up next Spring, to drop and begin the cycle all over again, is dependent upon the travels of the moose. Understand as well that the time in which ticks are climbing vegetation looking for a free ride happens to fairly closely coincide with the moose mating season, when moose travel the most due to increased activity. Where the tick is picked up by a moose and then dropped in the Spring could be some distance away, even by human standards.

It shouldn’t be thought that moose are carrying more ticks because ticks are moving into the regions where moose seem to be traveling the most, although simply because of those natural actions it is possible that more ticks might be present in a travel corridor than some other random spot, but I can’t believe it would be of any significance.

I think the facts are clear, and I’ve never read any studies that suggest ticks have figured out where to go to catch a ride, that there are more ticks everywhere, because there are more moose everywhere. Therefore logic would suggest that if you reduce the number of moose, there would be less ticks and healthier moose, which is, what I think, Mr. Terriault is suggesting.

Share