May 25, 2015

Moose Ticks Have Always Been Here…Or Have They?

WinterTicksFew will disagree that the moose tick, aka, winter tick (dermacentor albipictus) can be a problem and that an over-abundance kills moose. The claim I have heard for many years is that the moose tick has always been around. Has it? Is making the statement using “around” an honest depiction of more important site specificity? What also concerns me about such statements is that it gives people cause to throw up their hands as if to say that there is nothing that can be done about it now. That may be true, but if there is any hope of trying to discover whether there is some kind of effective cure, isn’t it important to have a complete understanding of this tick?

It is basic knowledge that when any specie of animal exists in abundance or is forced into living in close quarters, disease becomes prevalent. The only way a disease can become prevalent in any species, as I just described, is that somehow that disease, parasite, virus, worm, etc. had to have been introduced, or that it already existed.

Being that we are living in a post-normal or post-scientific world, the dishonest answer to everything is climate change, i.e. global warming. While moose populations in Maine have, until the last couple of years, been increasing in large quantities, this reality flies in the face of global warming arguments that because of a warming climate in Maine moose should be migrating out of the area. Doesn’t seem to be the case. This discussion isn’t necessarily about global warming. I bring it up because it is NOT an explanation that helps to discover facts about moose and winter ticks. These ticks live in the Yukon and the same ticks live in Texas.

From a science institution’s perspective, there can never be studies enough on anything. To go along with that, we humans have had our little brains manipulated in such a way that our response to far too many issues has become to demand a study or a working group to talk about it. Studies mean money and money means more incomplete studies in order that there be more demand for more studies. Very unfortunate.

Working groups are useless and a complete waste of time. Over the years I have seen them be created, propaganda presented, and absolutely nothing getting accomplished.

Having said all this, then shouldn’t we question every time someone wants more studies and form more working groups? After all, it is OUR money. We should demand results…real results.

People in Maine want to know if ticks are really killing the moose. This is the same in New Hampshire and Minnesota. New Hampshire and Minnesota insist the problem is global warming. Global warming, in their wee bit of brains, is what is the cause of what they believe to be an increase in dermacentor albipictus.

We are also, perhaps incorrectly, told that these winter ticks don’t survive in cold climates and yet moose love cold climates and seem to be the one species most effected by the tick. If the winter tick doesn’t like cold climates, then why are these same tick regularly found in The Yukon? And in Texas?

One thing we all must understand, moose suck at grooming themselves. It is helpful knowledge to understand that because moose don’t groom themselves, like lots of other wild and domestic animals, they carry around more ticks. We should be able to reasonably conclude that moose are more greatly effected by the ticks than other ungulates, because they are poor groomers.

Another fact that is seldom discussed is which other animals play host to dermacentor albipictus? Here’s a few to add to your list: elk, caribou, deer, feral swine, wolves, coyotes, cattle and horses. In order to understand how to deal with the moose tick we need to understand other hosts and how the tick is spread. Bear in mind that elk and caribou migrate, sometimes over many, many miles. We know over the years feral swine are spreading all over the United States.

But, consider this fact. According to Gabriele Liebisch, Arndt Liebisch, Stephan Paufler in a study, a horse was transported by plane to Germany from Montana:

Already on arrival at the airport of Amsterdam about 30 fully engorged ticks dropped off the horse, and during the following 4 days in the stable in Germany more than 200 engorged ticks were collected. The tick species was identified as Dermacentor albipictus, which is also called ‘winter tick’.

This study refers to this tick as “New World Tick” because it is a different species than what might be found in Germany. Germany has moose but not necessarily the same problem with the tick and the moose…yet.

Other things found in studies already completed that should be considered, involve the feral swine. In a study published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, and published on BioOne, feral hogs found in New Hampshire were tested. Remember New Hampshire blames their problem with ticks on global warming.

The expansion of feral swine (Sus scrofa) populations into new geographic regions is of concern not only due to increased range but also because they carry diseases and parasites that pose a threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife into new areas. Recently, emerging feral swine populations have been reported in the northeastern US and due to their adaptive nature will likely continue to spread. During 2009–2012, 49 feral swine were removed from three counties in New Hampshire.

Infestations of winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) were also documented on two of the feral swine which had only been reported previously on feral swine in Texas. Feral swine may not only serve as an important host for an economically important commercial swine pathogen like PRV, but they could also increase host diversity for parasites such as the winter tick, a species that can regionally impact moose (Alces alces) survival.

There’s more. I had already mentioned that these winter ticks were found in the Yukon. Published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, a study on the origins of dermacentor albipictus, showed that perhaps the tick might have hitched a ride to the Yukon.

Winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) on elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) have recently increased in numbers in the Yukon, Canada, potentially posing risks to other indigenous host species in the region.

Based on our results, winter ticks on elk in the Yukon could have originated either by translocation from central Alberta or by northward range expansion of more geographically proximate populations in northern Alberta and British Columbia. Although there was some genetic structuring of winter ticks on different hosts in the same region, we found little evidence of host specificity in winter ticks from five ungulate host species, suggesting that the winter ticks on elk in the Yukon could potentially become established on other locally available host species such as moose (Alces alces).

While on the subject of referencing existing studies, consider that some scientists find that climate and weather have less effect on the growth and reduction of ticks than others believe.

With this knowledge in hand, can we ask for a more definitive response to the origins of the moose tick than it’s always been around? Maybe it hasn’t always been around. Maybe it was brought into your state or region from someplace else or migrated there.

In reading all of this information, wildlife biologists, along with parasitologists, should be asking whether or not it is a good and responsible practice to allow for the over protection of wild species and seek perhaps a better control over human translocation of wild and domestic animals.

Just maybe what is also being realized here are some of the effects of practicing an ignorant, romantic notion of “balance of nature” where nature magically creates a healthy ecosystem where nothing is wrong. With continued and prolonged efforts to protect wild animal species at high levels, are we not promoting the spread of disease, including winter ticks? Nature allows for regulation via disease, starvation and cannibalism. The result is scarcity which is irresponsible stewardship of wildlife and benefits no human. It is the worst of all choices.

Instead of just throwing some grant money at another study to try to find out if ticks are killing moose, why not practice some good, old-fashioned, hard work and research of the information that is available. I don’t want to have somebody else tell me ticks are killing moose. I know they are. What I’m interested in is finding out if there’s a scientific (real scientific) answer for why there appears to be more ticks and how to stop them before more devastation occurs. It seems to me that nobody has a handle on this necessary information. The only cry is about global warming. Get over it!

If there’s more ticks because there’s too many moose, the solution is simple – we need to kill more moose. If the cause is due to translocation of ticks from outside the region, then let’s stop it. Finding the truth is what’s important. Global warming theory is NOT truth. Spending money to see whether or not ticks are killing moose is akin to spending money to discover if snow is cold.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInEmailShare

“Time to Cry Wolf” and Predator Disease Warnings

hydatidcystsonelklungs

The other day I was sent an article and the link to that article found at “Western Cowman.” The article, “Time to Cry Wolf – Damaging Impacts of Predator Diseases on Wildlife, Livestock and Humans.”, was written by Heather Smith Thomas. It contains valuable information and is a good piece that helps to sum up the difficulties being realized now here in the United States about diseases carried by and perpetuated by wild canines, i.e. mostly coyotes and wolves. I have also provided on this website, under “Wildlife Diseases”, both Echinococcus granulosus and Neospora Caninum, a link to this article.

I read the article and then reread the article. I left it for a day or two and then reread it a third time and studied it a bit closer. In it I discovered some information that has come up before and has been the cause of a bit of controversy and confusion. It shouldn’t be. As part of my research into this, I contacted Dr. Delane Kritsky, a parasitologist at Idaho State University. I sent him the article and highlighted the part that bothered me. Here is that part:

Check the vital organs of big game, looking closely for small white or reddish balloon-shapes that might be cysts. If there are any, be careful not to puncture them. The fluid from one of these cysts can be dangerous, especially if the gunshot wound penetrated an infected organ. Ingestion of Hydatid cyst fluid can cause development of these cysts in humans.(emboldening added as I did in the copy I sent to Dr. Kritsky.)

Dr. Kritsky’s response to this was: “Again, I don’t know of any reports of persons becoming infected from ingesting or handling cysts (or their contents).”

I had previously, in February of 2013, sent Dr. Kritsky a copy of a report I had received from Clay Dethlefson of the Western Predator Control Association. That report is made available on this website.

In that report, Dethlefson states:

Fact–Humans get secondary Hydatid Cyst from internally located bursting and/or seeping Cysts.

Too, in the case of humans (hunters, butchers, etc.) it is not only feasible but it is truly possible for people to get Hydatid Cysts from an ungulate’s exposed Hydatid Cysts. This occurs when Hydatid Sand from a Cyst that has burst and/or is seeping comes into contacted with a human’s transmission means, and thereafter, this Hydatid Cyst Fluid (with viable Protoscolices) enters external body orifices. Transmission by hands or by having Sand surge or gush in some other manner into external orifices of the body are such means; hence, Cysts do not occur just from direct involvement with E.g. Eggs.

At that time Dr. Kritsky responded that the information was true that this can happen but emphasized that, “there is no danger in becoming infected just by handling (or eating) a cyst that might have been present in a harvested animal.”

As a confirmation, is the reason I once again contacted Dr. Kritsky about any dangers. The object here is not to dispute anyone’s claims or find fault with reports and statements. The goal is to pass on to the many hunters, trappers, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts as much fact about disease dangers as can be assessed.

As part of my email to Dr. Kritsky, I asked a couple more questions. Here are those questions and Dr. Kritsky’s answers are within quotes.

Question One: How dangerous is rupturing a cyst in a deer, moose or elk to humans?
Answer: “I wouldn’t hesitate to handle a cyst (ruptured or not).”

Question Two: As far as eating the meat, cooking should take care of any threats, shouldn’t it?
Answer: “Two cysts, adults and eggs, are easily killed with heat.”

It appears that we are dealing with possibilities and probabilities. According to both of these sources, Dethlefson and Kritsky, it is possible that a ruptured hydatid cyst found in a human and a wild ungulate (deer, moose, elk, etc.) can result in secondary hydatid cysts occurring. However it appears as though the probability is quite low. The individual must weigh the risks based on factual information.

In this regard I queried Dr. Kritsky about taking precautions. His answer was, “I suppose it doesn’t hurt to take precautions–after all, nothing is definitively correct in science–we are always disproving ideas(and never prove them).

It has always been my content that outdoor sportsmen, before they can make responsible decisions on what risks they are willing to take, have to have the facts and understand them in order to do that. While this discussion has been mostly about the threat of contracting Hydatid disease from a ruptured, exciting cyst, sportsmen need to understand that the greatest danger comes from the risk of ingesting the tiny eggs found in canine feces, a product that dots the landscape by the millions, perhaps billions.

There are warnings published in the “Time to Cry Wolf” article and the precautions all of us should take when living in and being in the outdoors where Echinococcus granulosus exists. For your own safety, I recommend following those recommendations.

Tiny Increments on Educating People About Echinococcus Granulosus in Maine

On February 20, 2013, I posted a press release sent out by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about the discovery of echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts found in moose. You can read that press release by clicking this link.

In addition to posting the press release, I also offered information about the disease to help readers obtain more knowledge and a better understanding of the real threats from this disease, frankly because I didn’t think the MDIFW press release contained enough information to help people make an honest assessment of the risks, which should become part of their decision making on outdoor excursions as well as proper care and prevention around the house.

With the help of a reader in finding it, the MDIFW posted some information on their website about E.G. While still inadequate, a small increment of changes were added to the original press release so positive actions are taking place.

To help readers better understand these tiny changes, I have posted the same information as can be found on the MDIFW website but took the liberty to highlight a few things there were added or omitted.

Echinococcus granulosus in Maine Moose

Over the last three years Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been collaborating with the University of Maine Animal Health Lab in examining the presence of lungworms (Dictyocaulus spp.) in moose. Lungworms have been noted in moose that have been found dead in late winter with heavy winter tick loads and the combination of both parasites has been implicated as a cause of calf mortality.

This past fall, students once again increased sampling intensity of moose lungs from harvested animals. This led to the University of Maine-Animal Health Lab, finding Echinococcus granulosus (E.G.) cysts in some moose lungs. EG is a very small tapeworm that has a two part lifecycle; one in canids (coyotes/foxes/domestic dogs) and the second in moose. There are several known genotypes of this tapeworm, and genetic testing of the Maine tapeworms found that this EG is the northern, or least pathogenic, form. Although Echinococcus granulosus can infect humans, the form that is known to do so most often is the sheep-dog genotype. Finding the northern, wild-type form of EG in moose in Maine suggests that likely wild canids in Maine are infected and that possibly domestic dogs are infected as well, and that fact may allow for human exposure to this parasite. It is also very likely that we have coexisted with these tapeworms for years with no apparent problems having not actively looked for them prior to this work.

The adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the canid host, while the larval form lives in the lungs or liver of an infected moose. Humans may become infected by [original press release included the word ‘ingesting’] eggs of the parasite, which can be picked up by contact with canid feces.

In conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and University of Maine Animal Health Lab/Cooperative extension, we recommend [original release used ‘the Department’] the following:

* Hunters avoid harvesting sick or injured animals. [This was added]
* Hunters and trappers should always wear rubber or latex gloves when field dressing animals.
* Wild game meat should be thoroughly cooked.
* People should avoid contact with dead wild animals
* People should avoid contact with carnivore feces [This was added]
* After consultation with your veterinarian, regularly deworm pets with a product that works on tapeworms [what is emboldened was added]
* Do not let domestic pets eat the organs from either hunter-harvested animals or from “road kill” animals [This entire warning was added]
* Practice good personal hygiene-wash hands and contaminated clothes, especially after handling animals or anything that could be contaminated with feces [entire warning was added]

On a positive note, it appears that the MDIFW is getting better educated about E.G. I will continue to send them information in hopes they are willing to gain better understanding and knowledge.

What hasn’t been brought out in either the original press release or this information posted on MDIFW’s website, is that if moose have these E.G. cysts, more than likely the whitetail deer, if they don’t have them now, soon will. As a matter of fact all ungulates are susceptible to E.G. This includes both wild and domestic ungulates.

When Hunting, Look Out for Flesh Eating Deer and Other Ungulates

As a hunter, one’s approach at stalking prey certainly depends upon the characteristics of the sought after prey. For that matter, what a hunter does in the woods and what he or she pays attention to is dependent upon what other large predators might be skulking about seeking whom they may devour.

As an example, if a hunter was stalking grey wolves, there’s always the thought of what could happen if a wolf or a pack of wolves turned on the hunter. Therefore, the methods of the hunt will vary considerably from that of hunting a whitetail deer in forests where few, if any, other large man-eating predators roam.

But what if that whitetail deer, or elk, or moose, we discovered, had turned from being a vegan to a meat eater? Normally hunters sneak quietly through the hardwoods, the swamps and thickets, moving as little as possible and limited in making noise as can possibly be done. This is because the deer is easily spooked and will often be gone before the hunter is even aware they were there from the beginning. Would that tactic change if deer stalked man?

Don’t laugh. First of all, some deer do stalk people. I’ve had it happen to me several times, especially on snow. It isn’t that the deer was stalking me to kill me, or at least that’s what I’ve always thought, I believe it is done more out of curiosity, as well as a clever avoidance tactic; i.e. hey, hunter, turn around and look behind you once in awhile.

Deer are herbivores right? – Meaning they eat only plants. It seems that’s not exactly true.

If deer are interested in eating fresh market beef, how soon before those same deer will be learning how to effectively stalk man, not out of curiosity, but for want of a hot fleshy meal? Not soon I hope.

In the article linked to above, we learn that many herbivores do enjoy an occasional high-protein diet, mostly from leftovers from others kills, but some have been known to do their own killing for the meat.

I suggest looking behind you more than occasionally while stalking about the woods. You never know what hungry beast waits you in the brush.

Easier To Blame Global Warming for Moose Tick Infestation Than Seeking Truth

One of the difficulties lazy readers have in finding facts comes from media-spawned political rhetoric and mythological hype from agenda-driven entities’ regurgitated propaganda sent to the media outlets, who, without questioning, publish it. Such is the case in an article found at Public News Service.

The article simply takes mostly tripe and propaganda put out by the Natural Resources Council (NRC) and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and publishes it as though it were substantiated fact. It is unfortunate that, one, the NRC and NWF are still mired in agendas to promote man-made global warming, and they refuse to accept the truth about what it is that is effecting our climate. Second, that because of this cultist obsession with global warming, they seize on information about tick-infested moose and lie to readers that moose have ticks because of global warming.

At least two serious errors have occurred here. The first being that the news agency appears not to have questioned any of the propaganda put out by the NRC and NWF and second, the information given by the NRC and NWF is misleading, incomplete and agenda-drive dishonesty.

Not quite 2 months ago, I provided readers with tons of information about science-substantiated winter ticks and moose. I challenge all to read it. I’ll spare you the blow by blow errors and misleading information provided in the Public News Service piece and try to help readers understand about ticks and why we are seeing more and more dead moose in the woods of Maine.

While it may not be wrong to state that warm weather causes more ticks, in the context of the article cited, it is intentionally misleading. The study I am referencing says that what happens during the early fall when ticks make their way onto vegetation in preparation of hitching a ride on a moose, is the most determining factor on how many ticks survive and how much the moose is effected by the ticks. The study says that it is in September and October when ticks find their way to the vegetation where they ultimately wait for their hosts to appear. This happens to coincide with the annual moose rut. Let’s not also forget that these ticks use all ungulates, i.e. moose, elk, deer, etc.

However, if any one of three elements or a combination of all occurs, ticks finding their way onto moose will be lessened, sometimes substantially. The first are deep snows. In Maine, how often are their deep snows? While there are no given definitions to “deep snows” in the study, one could conclude that being the data indicates these ticks can be found from a couple inches to several feet above the ground, I presume a foot of snow or more might have an effect on the ticks. Again, how often does this happen?

A second event that effects ticks is “6 consecutive days in which the temperature does not exceed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.” When was the last time this happened in Maine during September, October and November?

And the third thing is windy weather. Strong and gusty winds will knock ticks off vegetation and more times than not are unable to reestablish themselves for that free ride. Consequently, the ticks die. How often does the wind blow in Maine? But, let me be honest. There could be little cold, no snow and no winds to interfere with the tick crop and we could have a banner year. Does that mean it’s all attributed to global warming? There could be little cold, no snow and windier than normal conditions leading to a minimal crop. Is this all attributed to global cooling?

From the point of finding their way onto moose, the ticks basically ride around staying warm enough to survive through winter. In late winter, around in March, the female ticks begin engorging themselves with blood from the moose. This irritates the moose causing them to rub, sometimes incessantly, in attempts to get rid of the ticks. The loss of energy, reduced periods of rest and loss of hair due to rubbing, all can contribute to a moose’s ability to tough out the rest of the winter. However, studies indicate the while ticks infestation contributes to ungulate death, it is not the main cause. Eventually the ticks are rubbed off and die and sometimes they survive. By spring, the ticks drop off the moose and the cycle begins again.

To create a blank statement that global warming causes more ticks to kill moose, simply is an incomplete and dishonest statement. An argument can be made that prolonged warming could attribute to an increase in ticks under certain conditions. However, I’m not sure that further studies exist to inform us as to how increased warming effects the entire ecosystem that includes the tick. Is it honest or intelligent to assume that warming is all good? Perhaps prolonged warming has detrimental effects on ticks that we have yet to discover.

Instead of dishonestly taking advantage of news reports of more dead moose being found in the woods and attributing it to global warming-caused tick infestations, why not take two minutes and examine stark and simple realities that can probably explain away much of what all the fuss is about.

It was but a mere 10 years ago that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was stating that the state’s moose population was around 29,000. Today, those estimates have risen dramatically and now may actually be approaching 100,000. With 3 – 4 times the number of moose ramming around the forests and fields, doesn’t it make sense that there are 3 – 4 times the number of moose roaming about the countryside in September and October picking up ticks. And doesn’t it stand to reason that with 3 – 4 times more moose carrying ticks, that more ticks survive to repeat the cycle? And finally, if there are 3 – 4 times the number of moose than there used to be ten years ago, wouldn’t the chances be pretty good we might be seeing 3 – 4 times the number of dead moose?

Tom Remington