Moose Down, Ticks Up

I wanted to flag a story out of Maine this weekend that's a big deal if you've been following the disturbingly rapid decline of America's moose population. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife announced on Friday it's cutting this fall's moose hunting permits by 25 percent. Just three months ago, those same officials had called the population "healthy and strong." But since then, moose suffered a three times higher than average winter mortality rate, with officials blaming warmer winters that are no longer cold enough to contain winter ticks.

Here's why this is so critical: Maine had been the last holdout with a healthy moose herd in New England. New Hampshire moose have been in trouble for a couple of years now and a horrible 64 percent of yearling moose died there this year. Just last month, Vermont officials cut moose hunting permits 20 percent. (There are a handful of moose in MA - I have a call in to MA Fisheries & Wildlife to see how they're doing.)

It's especially disturbing considering how the moose are dying. Usually winter ticks fall off a moose and freeze. But if temperatures are warmer than usual, they find other ticks, breed, and climb back on moose. Moose are now being found with as many as 150,000 ticks on them, dying of anemia from blood loss. The moose lose their fur as they try to scrape off the ticks and the pale, emaciated moose are called "ghost moose" - you can see a picture of one here.

NYT's Jim Robbins had a great backgrounder last fall of the full timeline of the sudden decline of America's moose, including big population drops in Minnesota. The National Wildlife Federation has put out two reports recently that detail how moose decline is directly connected to climate change:

David Mizejewski, NWF naturalist, can walk you through climate change's threat to moose. I can also connect you with Eric Orff, NWF's New Hampshire outreach consultant and a retired wildlife biologist, who was recently featured talking about NH moose & ticks on the PBS News Hour.

Miles Grant
National Wildlife Federation
[email protected]
202-797-6855 (office) / 703-864-9599 (cell)