After seeing this previous conversation on Cake about ticks, I got goosebumps reading this recent report in The Atlantic entitled "Climate Change Enters Its Blood-Sucking Phase." The majestic Moose, the second-largest animal in North America (*biggest is the Bison, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds), is being hit hard by ticks:
This count would later produce an estimated infestation total of just under 14,000 ticks. This was actually far fewer than they often found, but it was enough to render this calf chronically anemic from January through March and then acutely, fatally anemic in the last couple of weeks of his life. In April, when the gravid females start taking their blood meals, the blood loss over their last two to four weeks aboard themoose “can equate to a calf’s total blood volume,” according to one
recent paper—some three and a half gallons. As Inga Sidor, the New Hampshire state veterinary pathologist who processed the tissue samples Debow and Blouin took that day, later told me, the ticks “literally bleed the moose to death.”
The reforestation of New England - by 1990, the region being 85% forested - has encouraged the return of the native species that thrived in those woods, most notably the Moose.
The majestic moose can run up to 35 miles per hour, is an endurance swimmer, and all-around general survival machine. But for a variety of reasons, moose are hit hard by ticks:
Tick loads so large are unique to moose, perhaps because moose live almost exclusively in places where warm winters are rare, and have developed no defense against such infestations. Unlike their
white-tailed deer cousins and most other furry mammals (including humans) that range more widely, moose don’t groom one another, and they are not habitual or “obligate” groomers; they groom only themselves, and only when heavily infested. By that time, alas, the ticks are on to
stay. In a warm fall, then, a dense moose population seems to prime tick populations for an explosion, and calves for a slow, sucking slaughter in the coming winter.
As the winters are milder, the mortality of moose calves affected by ticks can go as high as 80%, with females being smaller and less likely to have healthy calves. What to do to help save the Moose? Ironically enough, it's hunting:
The answer lies in the aforementioned relationship between moose density and tick numbers per moose. The magic density number seems to be about 0.75 to one moose per square mile, according to Pekins; let moose get denser than that, and you exponentially increase the moose’s average
tick load and the calves’ mortality rate. Thus, as it were, the more moose, the fewer moose.
The tick's diabolically brilliant life cycle is perfectly adapted to its environment, and we can only hope that these strategies to save the Moose are effective.