When the cold comes around we often think that all the bugs die off, but in reality there is one creature that thrives in the winter. The winter tick is a mite who’s main meal is the moose, however it can be found on many hoofed animals. It is found only in North America, and does not carry any diseases that can be transmitted to humans, so what’s the big deal? These creatures are causing an epidemic disease on moose with the average moose carrying 30,000 of them around and the numbers can get into the 100,000 on a single moose. The affected individuals occur significant hair loss, which results in their nicknamed “Ghost Moose.” These animals then become emaciated due to the extra loss in energy that they must spend grooming themselves to get the ticks off because of the irritation that they cause. This distraction from feeding often causes these animals to wondering into populated areas looking food during the winter months. Loss of coat makes the host more susceptible to predators and the winter weather. Though we often think of a tick as a small red/brown creature that we can find on our house pet and occasionally ourselves, you would never think that a little creature could take down a full-grown moose. Though in fact, these creatures often ban together in the 100s and attach to a host in the summer months were they wait tell the cold to start feeding. I never knew these small creatures even existed until we had a lecture on them in my Equine Health class, and all I thought during the lecture was great, just another thing to look out for on my horse. Little did I know that the next week, I went out to the barn and found one on my mare. Though the winter tick may not carry diseases to us, they are making a large impact on the moose, caribou, and elk populations and can even be found on horses and cattle in our area.
Sources: Winter Tick in Moose and Other Ungulates http://www.ccwhc.ca/wildlife_health_topics/winter_tick/wintertick.php