The battle against ticks has brought many casualties among the moose population. A recent project has recently been developed in New Hampshire after tracking collars were put on 36 calves. Unfortunately, around 75 percent of them died because of ticks.
According to Kristine Rines, moose biologist, this is the second year in a row with such high death rate among calves. Plus, if this situation continues, the future of the moose population might be in danger.
Ticks rely on a combination of moose numbers and short winters. Just a single moose can host up to more than a few thousand ticks that suck its blood during the winter. Therefore, when the spring comes, the animals will be so weak and scraggy that they will not pull through, especially calves.
The ticks numbers will decline only if the moose numbers decline too, but that cannot be considered a solution. Last year, 20 moose calves out of 27 which were tagged by state biologists were found dead at the end of April in New Hampshire, compared to 2014 when only 13 out of 22 died.
However, this is a 6-year moose mortality tagging project which will cover the area of Maine and New Hampshire. Since 2014, when the study began, biologists have gathered to find a way to stop the drop-off in moose numbers.
The largest moose population in the U.S. is in Maine, estimating 60,000 to 70,000 animals. The number of calf deaths declined last year from 73 percent to 60 percent. Also, the death number of adult moose dropped from 33 % to 8 %, which is even better.
Nevertheless, it is not enough as this situation might get out of control even beginning from the next winter. Even if Vermont did not participate in the tracking collar study, the ticks have taken their toll there too.
According to Cedric Alexander, moose biologist, Vermont has a lower density than New Hampshire. Furthermore, hunters have counted the ticks on the bull moose shot and established that their number is significantly lower than in Maine and New Hampshire.
The scientists will keep collecting blood samples from the animals to monitor their health. Also, the collared animals will provide the experts with vital information as long as the collars will function. Whenever a moose dies, the collars transmit a different type of signal, showing the researchers how to find the dead animal. This way they will establish whether ticks were the cause of death or not.