As much as 93 percent of the moose population below the St. Lawrence River in Quebec may be infected with moose-killing winter ticks.
In the fall of 2014, the CBC News in Canada reported that while the moose population may be growing in the province of Quebec, it’s facing the threat of a parasite known as the winter tick.
Three-quarters of the moose studied by researchers south of the 50th parallel were observed to be carrying the winter tick, and below the St. Lawrence River that number jumps to over 90 percent.
Éric Jaccard, a biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks said, “It’s certain that there are moose who are strongly affected by the tick, and so the death rate remains a factor we have to address very quickly to be able to better evaluate the effect of these parasites on the moose populations.”
Some moose have been observed suffering from extreme exhaustion due to the health effects of the winter tick parasite, and the Ministry of Forests has confirmed that the deaths of many moose are a direct result.
The tick will attach itself to the animal’s fur in the fall, then to the host itself during the winter months.
The same issues have been seen across the border in states like New Hampshire where moose populations have been cut in half over the last 15 years.
Kristine Rines, biologist for the state’s Fish and Game Department said in a telling comment:
“The last study showed us that winter ticks is really the major mortality source that we have for moose. But since then, even though we have these known mortality rates, even though we have reduced the permits using these known mortality rates, the populations have continued to go down.”
While experts have their opinions as to why these ticks have become such a problem in recent years, the one thing they all come back to is the issue of global warming.
Less severe winters can create a favorable breeding ground for ticks, but scientists agree that more research must be done in order to corner the problem.
In the meantime, the number of moose carrying these ticks has increased and the number of ticks they are infected with has also gone up.
All pictures via CBC News