Warm winters have been tipping the balance between New Hampshire moose and the winter ticks that feed on them.
The ticks have benefited from warmer temperatures, and their increasing numbers have become a problem for moose.
When too many ticks latch on to the moose, it suffers blood loss, hair loss, becomes sick, and sometimes dies.
Kristine Rines, a wildlife biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, says the real enemy is weather.
When we have warmer falls and warmer springs, the ticks do much better, and as a result, moose get a lot more ticks, and they die.
However, preliminary data from this year’s ‘hair-loss study’ on moose may be cause for optimism.
We saw some animals with severe hair-loss, some animals with none. And just eyeballing it, most of the reports seemed to be more moderate.
Rines says ticks cannot completely wipe out the moose population.
As moose numbers decline, so do ticks, because moose really are their ultimate host. So if there aren’t very many moose, there won’t be very many ticks.
There are about 5,000 moose living in New Hampshire now.