Unseasonably warm weather has allowed the tick population to get an early jump on the season.
“In the last week we have had calls from people concerning ticks on their cattle, horses and dogs,” said Cindy Porter, an animal technician with the Williams Lake Veterinary Hospital. “Especially from people who live along the river, where it’s a little warmer.”
Porter said ticks need temperatures to reach 4C to thrive, which of course has been the case in recent weeks.
Members of the public are being asked by the government to help document moose winter tick infestations by completing and submitting an online Moose Winter Tick Survey before April 30, 2016.
The survey will help B.C.’s wildlife health staff monitor the number of moose affected with these ticks and the extent to which they affect moose around the province.
The Moose Winter Tick Surveillance Program monitors the number of animals with hair loss and the amount of hair loss on each animal to estimate winter tick prevalence and distribution. Tick infestations can sometimes result in severe behavioural and physiological changes and directly impact the survival rates of moose — especially young animals.
The survey’s findings will help to inform moose management in B.C.
Winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) can have a significant impact on moose populations when climate and habitat conditions promote high tick numbers. This type of tick goes through three life stages over the winter on one moose and there can be as many as tens of thousands on one animal.
As the ticks mature, they feed on the animal’s blood and can cause anemia. In late winter, the irritation from ticks causes moose to scratch and groom themselves excessively, resulting in hair loss and less time spent foraging.
The extent of hair loss on a moose can be observed easily from a distance and is a rough indicator of how many ticks are present.
Survey participants are asked to observe the amount of hair loss, if any, occurring on moose and check the survey box which most describes the animal — ranging from “no loss” to “ghost” which means hair loss over most of the body or 80 per cent of winter hair.
Winter tick infestations are generally observed on moose from February through April. Anyone interested in contributing to the surveillance program can obtain a copy of the survey online at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/6AAE0D9D88A34A7EBD487DC4FED75E18 or by contacting Dustin Walsh at: FLNRMooseTickSurvey@gov.bc.ca or 250 617-0725.
A copy of the 2015 Provincial Moose Winter Tick Surveillance Program Report is available at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/382F60531B704DDD9423222AE08488B1.