The Moose Tick

Moose tick, winter tick

White fern winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus ). By Mat Pound, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

The moose tick most commonly attacks moose, caribou, horses, cattle, deer, and elk, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t your problem as a homeowner or outdoor enthusiast. 

These ticks affect moose the worst, causing them to repeatedly groom themselves and rub against trees to scratch the itch. This can disrupt feeding activities and even cause total hair loss on the animals. 

In many cases, infected moose do not survive the winter, as they are more susceptible to predators.

HOW TO IDENTIFY MOOSE TICKS

Also known as winter ticks, moose ticks are less than ¼ of an inch long and have a brownish pattern on their backs. This appears somewhat like a speckled or mottled design. 

Females are larger than the male, especially when fully engorged. Young ticks will be either six-legged larvae or eight-legged nymphs, both of which are much smaller than adult ticks.


Appearance and Behavior

Unlike other types of ticks, moose ticks have only one host and have a one-year life cycle. These ticks will remain on a host until they drop away and die. Ticks initially hop onto their hosts by crawling atop tall vegetation. 

They then feed on the host’s blood and develop, transitioning from larvae to nymphs and then finally to adults. Mating takes place at the end of winter, with the blood-engorged females dropping to the ground to lay their eggs before dying.

Once they’ve fed on a host, female moose ticks lay egg masses that can have as many as 3,000 eggs. These eggs hatch in the spring but are not active until the fall. Because these ticks remain on a host for their entire lives, hundreds of ticks can sometimes be found on a host.

HOW DO YOU GET MOOSE TICKS


Moose ticks are rarely picked up by humans, and when humans are bitten, they exhibit very few (if any) symptoms besides an itchy bump. However, these ticks are incredibly common in ungulates. There are high numbers of moose tick infestations in areas of Canada and northern New York. The animals experience extreme symptoms such as hair loss, reddened skin, and even death in many cases. Moose tick populations peak towards the end of winter.


HOW TO GET RID OF MOOSE TICKS


There is little you can do to prevent moose ticks, besides notifying your local fish and wildlife department if you happen to come into contact with one, or with an animal it has infested. 

However, to prevent contact with a moose tick (or any kind of tick), you should always wear long clothing and closed-toed shoes when out and about in the woods. 

Apply a thorough, highly rated insecticide to your clothing, and conduct a thorough examination of your body every time you handle a wild animal or a carcass.


Moose Tick Facts


Moose ticks tend to affect moose more than other species of hoofed mammals because the moose mating period coincides with the tick larvae period. This means that the moose move around more frequently, putting them more at risk of contracting the ticks. 

Moose also don’t groom themselves as regularly and thoroughly as other species, such as deer, allowing the ticks to become more firmly attached and in higher numbers.

Luckily, moose ticks rarely infest humans and will not transmit diseases, as other types of ticks might. Also, the meat of animals infested with moose ticks is not tainted and is safe for human consumption. 

However, it’s important to be aware of the signs of moose tick infestation, as outdoorsmen and women may come into contact with infected animals. 

Check yourself frequently for ticks, and report any oddly behaving or appearing animal to the local fisheries and wildlife authority to help reduce the population of ticks in the area.