Outdoors

Ticks: tiny wolves at work on area moose

WILDLIFE — Hans Krauss, a Spokane Valley wildlife enthusiast and photographer, shot these photos of a bull moose in the Ponderosa neighborhood a few days ago. 

What first caught his eye are the bases of where antlers had fallen off, and where the new antler growth soon will be sprouting.

But my first reaction was, “That poor bugger is infested with ticks.”  If the grayish look, and the hair rubbed off in patches including the ears aren't an obvious clue, the engorged ticks on the moose's rump are graphic.

Indeed, Krauss's email with the photos came while I was on the phone conducting an interview with Rich Harris, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in charge of special big-game species, such as moose. I was researching the decline of moost published for stories published in the Sunday Outdoors section:

I forwarded the photos to Harris, who in turn forwarded the photos to Kristen Mansfield, the state's wildlife veterinarian.  Here are their comments:

__________________________

Kristin:

…. Would appreciate your ideas. Rich Landers sent me these photos yesterday, nice close up of a bull photographed yesterday. He looks somewhat emaciated to me, and I wonder if this amount of grey color is shedding, old age, ticks, normal end of winter condition, or other? What do you think?

— Rich Harris

___________________________

Rich,

The whitish-grayish coloring of the legs is normal.

The thin hair and whitish-grayish coloring in the saddle area, neck, and rump are where he's been scratching at winter ticks. I think you can even see several ticks in his perineal area.

He does look thin, but not really emaciated to me. Kind of what I'd expect this time of year in an animal that appears to have had a miserable winter dealing with lots of ticks.

— Kristen Mansfield




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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