British Columbia

Keep your eyes peeled for moose ticks, annual B.C. government survey asks public

The annual moose winter tick surveillance program has just launched — and the B.C. government is asking for your help.

The annual moose winter tick surveillance program has just launched

When moose get infested with ticks, they start to lose chunks of fur from scratching. (Dan Bergeron/ N.H. Fish and Game Dept)

B.C.'s Wildlife Health Program has launched its annual winter moose tick survey — and is asking for observant members of the public to help them out.

Ticks can have detrimental effects on moose, according to provincial wildlife ecologist Kevin Watt. 

Tick infestations — where tens of thousands of ticks can burrow into one moose — can cause many behavioural and physiological changes. As moose rub to try to get rid of ticks, it can cause hair loss, blood loss and create open wounds. 

These factors can all lead to moose become more vulnerable to predators, poaching and road accidents. 

"In some severe cases, having a lot of ticks on them can cause moose to die," Watt said. 

While winter ticks are fairly prevalent in B.C., Watt says some believe the ticks have become more prevalent in the province in recent years, particularly due to climate and habitat change.

The point of the annual survey is to gather data on whether the ticks are becoming more prevalent and what the long term trend is. 

Online survey

Participating in the online survey is simple. 

Observers, including wildlife professionals and the general public, are asked to look for and assess the amount of hair loss on a moose. Hair loss can be used to determine the number of ticks infesting it.

Moose are found across B.C., except in coastal areas. They are most prevalent in northern B.C. 

The survey runs until Apr. 30, 2020. 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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