The frightening effects of climate change are evident everywhere you look. A report by researchers from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) suggests that the climate change favorable for a parasite affects the elk population in New England. According to their findings, winter ticks, which meandered tens of thousands on the elk's blood in autumn and winter, were responsible for about seven out of ten elk calves during the three-year study.
Investigating calves in New Hampshire and western Maine since 2014, published their findings in September in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. UNH published a press release about the research this week. In each of these three years, the team studied 179 radioactively labeled young moose on parasites and their condition over a four-month period. Of these calves, 125 – or almost 70 percent – of the elk calves died. The researchers suspect that this is mainly due to the winter tick.
"The iconic moose is fast becoming the new figurehead for climate change in parts of the Northeast," Pete Pekins, professor of wildlife ecology at UNH and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "Normally we would be worried about something over 50 percent death toll, but at 70 percent we see a real problem in the elk population."
The problem is that winters in the area are increasingly lagging as a result of climate change, leading to longer falls and earlier sources. This is beneficial for the tick that attaches to the moose in the fall and feeds on blood in winter before it peels off in the spring.
"Most people have heard of ticks and are worried about Lyme disease," Perkins said last year in UNH video about the team's research. "Let me just say this is another tick – part of history here in New England, as the slow effects of climate change have come to pass, winters are starting later and later, our first snowfall is the key to stopping, like many ticks can catch a moose. "
The study reported that 88 percent of the calf mortality of tagged calves was associated with" moderate to severe infestation "of the parasite, with ticks causing emaciation, anemia, and blood loss. Each elk calf had an average of 47,371 ticks. But that's not as bad as there are cases. In a case reported to the New York Times, researchers observed an elk calf with about 100,000 ticks – although this number was probably even higher before the parasites repelled after death. Pekins told The Times that tick numbers are over 35,000 "trouble for a calf moose".
While researchers observed that conditions for adult moose were slightly better and most survived, they also showed signs of poor health with anemia and blood loss. The ticks can also affect their breeding behavior by affecting their reproductive ability.
"The moose literally become bloodless, which is about as disgusting as it is outside," Pekins told the Boston Globe last year.
This is not the first thing we have heard about the declining moose population in New England. News about the team's research, the largest ever survey of elk population in New England, was reported back in 2015. At this time, the exact cause and extent of the deaths were not yet known.
No, only the moose, who were affected by the area's tick explosion. In addition, the total number of non-elk ticks (which people rarely bite) has increased over the past decade, Associated Press said last year, which has led to an increase in cases of tick-borne diseases among people in New England area  [Canadian Journal of Zoology via UNH]