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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

As we have discussed numerous times, Winter tick infestations are one of the debilitating agents that global warming seems to have exasperated in Moose populations across large swaths of their range............Hair loss followed by weight loss and hypothermia often lead to death.............Algonquin Park in Eastern Canada has been monitoring these tick infestations for almost 30 years............2013 saw an incidence of Ticks slightly below the 30 year average which suggests the Moose population should not be severely impacted in the coming year.............Strange how a very warm early 2012 followed by an April cold snap and then severe Summer drought may just have taken it's toll on the tick population,


Moose Hair Loss Survey


Moose showing moderate hairloss

Moose (Alces alces) are the largest animal
 in Algonquin
 Park and a crucial part of the ecosystem, 
but significant
 mortality-events of Moose have been 
associated with
 Winter Tick (Dermacentor albipictus)
 infestations in the
 past. Moose with heavy winter tick
 infestations groom
 vigorously by licking, biting, or scratching
 against a tree,
 which results in severe hair loss that can
 lead to
decreased fat reserves, and in extreme
 cases hypothermia.
 Winter ticks (and the associated hair loss),
 plus normal
 winter coat shedding is what make Moose
 appear "scraggly"
 in the spring. To assess the severity of winter
 tick infestation,
 Algonquin Park staff have been conducting
 aerial Moose Hair
 Loss Surveys since 1984. An index is used
 to measure the
 severity of tick infestation based on the
degree of hair loss,
and make predictions about the potential
 impact to the local
 Moose population.

Life Stages of the Winter Tick

2013 Survey Results

The 2013 Moose Hair Loss Survey was conducted
 in Algonquin Park on March 23 and 24. A total of
 137 Moose were assessed for severity of hair loss,
 and ranked into one of five categories. The Hair
 Loss Severity Index (HSI) from this survey was
 calculated to be 1.88, which is slightly lower than
 the average HSI (1.90) over the
 history of the survey (1984-2012). A below average
HSI is not
 associated with winter tick related mortality events,
and a significant
effect on the Moose population is not expected this
 year. This result
 was not anticipated based on the current moose
 population and
previous spring temperatures, both of which though
t to be favourable
 for tick populations. Generally, an early spring
(like the one we
 witnessed in 2012), late fall, and relatively high
Moose population
 bodes well for the ticks.

Why Were There Not as Many 

Ticks As

 Expected This Year?

Winter Ticks on Moose

Without a detailed study it is difficult to say
for sure,
 but there
could be a number of environmental factors at play.
 First of all,
2012 was definitely a year of weather anomalies
 – not only
 did it have the earliest ice-out date on Lake
 Opeongo in the
 history of our records, but March actually had
 a warmer average
 temperature than April (according to
 Environment Canada),
which is highly unusual! Warm spring
 conditions with no snow
 are supposed to be very favourable for the
 female ticks when
 they drop off the moose, full of blood and
 ready to lay eggs.
 However, you might also recall that April
 had some very cold
 temperatures with a hard frost late in the
 month, which we know
 affected the blossoms on fruit trees, and
 may have also had a
 negative impact on tick eggs. But the other
 major weather
anomaly that we witnessed in 2012 was
the drought. By late
July there were extreme fire indices, and
 a drought that caused
 Algonquin Park to impose a Restricted
 Fire Zone (fire ban).
 This may also have an impeded the growth
 of the tick population,
 as droughts have been shown to affect other
 tick species. A
 combination of these factors may have limited
 tick numbers in
2012, or it could be something altogether
 different that we have
 not documented yet. Until research looks
further into how Moose,
 ticks, and weather interact, consider it a
natural history mystery!

How You Can Help!

Algonquin Park staff are always interested
 in the health of the local
 Moose population and we would be particularly
interested in any
 sightings and pictures of moose with hair loss
 this spring. If possible,
 pleasesend your observations along with the
 time, location, number
 of moose, male/female, adult/calf, % hair loss,
 a picture (if possible),
 and any other valuable information

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