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New England moose can have 50,000 blood sucking ticks on them at any one time


NEWS AND COMMENT: I’m astonished to learn that within a few months of being born a moose living in New England, USA, can acquire 50,000 ticks. The problem is that moose are inflexible creatures which means that they don’t have the ability to lick or knock off ticks. They don’t groom themselves and it’s a real problem when it comes to ticks. Calves struggle to survive their first winter when they are particularly vulnerable. It was found in a 2018 study that 70% of young moose were being killed by ticks across a stretch of Maine and northern New Hampshire.

And, ticks can reduce the ability of cows to reproduce. They’ve tried to use various fungal pathogens to kill ticks but they found the idea impractical because they have to stalk thousands and thousands of acres of dense wild forest to track down moose to apply the treatment. When they tried it, they only got two.

So, what’s the solution? It will surprise you. The plan is to save the moose by killing them. This will reduce the number of ticks. In order to achieve this goal biologists in New England have arranged for hunters to kill more of them.

For example, in the state of Maine, which has by far the most moose in the area, wildlife officials have granted an extra 550 permits this autumn which will allow hunters to shoot a cow or a calf in a 1000 mi² area of woodland near the Canadian border. In Vermont where there is a much smaller herd of moose, they have granted 40 extra hunting permits.

Animal rights activists are critical. Together with locals, they want the moose to be shot with a tick-killing pesticide instead. I take that to mean that they use a dart from a rifle which contains a pesticide which is injected into the moose on impact and which is distributed around the animal’s body in the bloodstream which ends up killing ticks as they suck blood. As mentioned above, this has proved impractical!

It is very sad that they have to kill moose to save moose. It doesn’t seem right to me or logical. I would have hoped that they could have tried a little harder to treat them. Aren’t there ways of corralling them into an area? Aren’t there other methods to track them down?

We know that ticks suck the blood out of animals. I guess when you’ve got 50,000 ticks on a moose, they become incredibly anaemic and die through complications of anaemia. That is my immediate and top of the head without much thought assessment.

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