Winter ticks are bugging Vermont's moose to death

January 5, 2017, 12:58 p.m.
Moose in frost
Photo: moosehenderson /iStockPhoto

This month, biologists in Vermont will radio collar 60 moose in the state's herd of 2,200 animals to learn more about how winter ticks are affecting them.

According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, "The ticks are becoming more prolific as spring and fall weather has warmed in recent years, causing some moose to collapse from blood loss or die from hypothermia after rubbing their insulating hair off in an attempt to rid themselves of the parasite."

The radio-collared individuals, as well as others observed directly by biologists over the next two years, will help reveal causes of mortality — including death from ticks — and potential threats from warming temperatures and habitat fragmentation. Similar studies are occurring in New Hampshire, Maine and New York.

“It is important that we understand how much these factors are affecting our moose population in Vermont," says Cedric Alexander, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s lead moose biologist. "Our moose conservation efforts must be based on a strong foundation of science if we are to understand and address these threats in the long term.”