Moose in early spring showing large area where winter hair has been rubbed away to remove winter ticks. These so-called 'ghost moose' can die from heavy infestation.

‘Citizen science’ tracks moose tick spread

Survey finds increase in 'ghost moose' that rub away hair to remove winter ticks, which can weaken and kill them

Sightings of ‘ghost moose’ have long been reported in the B.C. wilderness, and now a systematic effort to collect reports is showing an increase in winter tick infestation that drives moose to rub away their dark winter hair.

The second year of a B.C. government-led citizen reporting study collected more than 500 reports, mostly from northern B.C. Province-wide, 61 per cent of moose sightings reported visible hair loss, up from 50 per cent in the pilot project year of 2015.

Heavy tick infestation can be fatal to moose, causing them to lose much of their hair and take time away from feeding to groom or rub themselves during early spring when they are at their weakest.

As with mountain pine beetle and other bark beetles, winter tick populations rise with warmer conditions. Pregnant females have a higher survival rate because they aren’t dropping off into snow after engorging themselves on the host animal’s blood and leaving to lay eggs.

The last major infestation in the B.C. Interior was noted in 1999, after unusually warm conditions the previous year. Cold fall temperatures and early snow can also reduce ticks at their larval stage.

Based on 2016 snow data, the survey predicts increased tick severity in 2017 for the Skeena and Omineca regions.

The tick monitoring program is publicized through local newspapers and radio, outdoor magazines and distribution to conservation officers, wildlife biologists, hunters, trappers and the general public. Responses increased after the pilot year, but remained low in the Cariboo, Kootenay, Lower Mainland and Okanagan regions.

Winter ticks also affect whitetail and mule deer, elk and bison, but mainly moose. They are not a hazard for humans.

There are three subspecies in B.C., the large Alaskan Moose in the northwest, the Northwestern Moose across most of the province and the smaller Shiras Moose in the East Kootenay and extending into the U.S.

Moose populations are tracked and managed via hunting regulations and access restrictions.

 

Just Posted

Decision time is coming for Masset schools

School board to decide soon whether to close Tahayghen Elementary School

Mount Moresby Adventure Camp aims to protect trails, ecosystems with expanded tenure

New tenure boundaries would also allow MMAC to rebuild lakeside dock for campers and general public

Signs of the Yakoun’s power

Shifting logs along the Golden Spruce Trail are almost certainly signs of powerful flooding

Court to rule on Husby injunction against protest at Collison Point

A B.C. Supreme Court judge will soon decide whether to grant an… Continue reading

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Malicious Monster Truck Tour coming to Northwest B.C. this summer

It’s the first time in 20 years monster trucks have rolled past Prince George for a northern show

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Most Read