British Columbia

Could shooting moose with paintball guns help fight winter tick infestations?

The owner of a B.C. wildlife shelter wants to use paintball guns to treat moose infested with ticks.

Winter tick infestations cause the animals to scratch off their fur

Can shooting moose with paintball guns be the answer to the winter tick infestation plaguing the animals in B.C.? (Justin Hoffman)

The owner of a B.C. wildlife shelter wants to use paintball guns to treat moose infested with ticks.

The idea is to fire pesticide powder-filled pellets at the animals to kill winter ticks that are infesting moose across the country.

The blood sucking insects force the animals to scratch away all their fur, making it hard to survive a winter.

Winter ticks can infect a moose, causing them to scratch off their fur. (Serge Simoneau/Linda Brochu)

Angelika Langen has been experimenting with ways to de-tick moose at her wildlife shelter in Smithers.

She found some powders designed for farm animals work, but applying them to wild animals wouldn't be easy.

"We found that the powders work quite well. So if can get the powder to the affected area and you powder them up, then within 24 hours — latest 48 hours — the ticks are all dead and they fall off," said Langen.

Dangerous work

But the real problem is applying the powder on the wild animals, because trapping or tranquilizing them can be difficult and dangerous.

So she came up with the idea to put the powder in paintball pellets and shoot them from a safe distance.

"My son is an avid paintball fan so I thought, gee, if we could put powder in there instead of paint, and we can put it right on the spot ticks are and it would distribute the powder if it would pop open."

So far she hasn't been able to test the idea because she is still looking for a way to manufacture the pellets.

Mike Bridger is coordinating a provincial program to monitor the moose winter tick problem.

"Yeah, no, it is a neat idea," said Bridger.

But Bridger said, if the paintball gun idea works, it would be hard to use it on thousands of infested moose. 

Still, he said it might be effective in some areas where the ticks are especially bad.

With files from Rafferty Baker


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