Trent Ernst, Editor
I’ve noticed something on social media. When it hits -30 for a week, there’s certain people who feel the need to post that climate change is a hoax.
Oddly enough, I noticed no weather related posts from them last week…
For those of you who have short-term memory issues, or are reading this in the future (hello, future dweller, we welcome you to this, our present), it was ten degrees out last week.
That’s with a plus.
No, I’m not going to rabid on about climate change. Yes, you can start reading again.
I am going to say, though, that this freeze/thaw cycle that we get into every winter can be a bit of a pain in the butt.
It’s hard on the roads, and it’s hard on the vehicles.
It’s even hard on the little kids.
I was driving past the elementary school on Friday, just as school was getting out, and watched, bemused, as kids tried to navigate down the hill from the school to Willow.
It was a perilous journey, as the entire side of the hill was ice, and the kids slip-slid down to the road as they tried to navigate their way home.
It was amusing, in the comfort of my car, as I rattle-bumped over the ice patches still left on the road.
A while back, I was also amused when I saw a mostly white moose while driving. “An albino moose,” I thought. “How odd.”
Turns out, it’s not that odd. Turns out, it’s also not that funny.
Turns out that another thing the unseasonably warm weather brings are something called winter ticks, which feed on moose.
While the little bloodsuckers are called winter ticks, they don’t thrive in the cold weather. Indeed, cold weather acts as an inhibiting factor for the spread of the ticks.
The ticks spend the entire winter on one moose and there can be tens of thousands on one individual. And while they are only becoming noticeable now, they actually spread during the fall.
In 2015, the Provincial Moose Winter Tick Surveillance Program was established to document winter tick distribution and infestation severity within the province, through the use of “citizen-science”.
As the female ticks become adults they feed on blood in late winter and the irritation causes moose to scratch and groom themselves excessively, resulting in hair loss. The extent of the hair loss is a rough indicator of how many ticks are present and can be observed from a distance.
Dustin Walsh is the program coordinator of the Winter Tick Surveillance Program. He says they are once again looking for help from the public with observations of hair loss caused by Winter Ticks on moose throughout the province.
The Moose Winter Tick Surveillance Program wants to collect observations to monitor the number of animals with hair loss and the amount of hair loss on each animal to estimate winter tick prevalence and distribution.
Winter ticks are a significant parasite for moose populations and can contribute to moose declines. Walsh says it is an important health factor to monitor, particularly with climate change and alterations to moose habitat.
The findings of the surveillance program will contribute to the Provincial Moose Research Program, which was initiated in 2013 to investigate factors influencing moose populations in BC.
Estimates are that the moose population, declined by approximately 27,500 moose between 2011 and 2014. In MU 32 (the closest surveyed) the population dropped 23 percent from 2004 to 2011, and that trend is expected to continue.
If you are interested in helping collect data over the next few months, visit the Moose Winter Tick page on the Government of BC website.