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‘Tis the season for ticks

HIKING — If you're heading out to explore the lowland natural areas around Eastern Washington, be warned that it's time to be using some DEET insect repellent on your neck and cuffs of shirt and pants, and going “nerdy” by tucking those pant-legs into your socks.

Tick season is in full bloom.

I've plucked off a few while hiking with my dog near Fishtrap Lake and while strolling the soggy trails at Slavin Conservation Area.

Here's another outside report from Sunday:

Don’t know how many tick reports you’ve gotten, yet, but they’re definitely out at Saltese Uplands Conservation Area.

— Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Study launched on northeast Wash. moose

WILDLIFE — State Fish and Wildlife biologists put GPS tracking collars on 28 northeastern Washington moose in December for a long-term study on the largest member of the deer family.

Other states, including Minnesota and Montana, have launched studies to understand why moose are declining in much of their range.

Rich Harris, Washington’s special species manager, said moose still appear to be expanding range and possibly their numbers in Washington.

All moose captured so far, using tranquillizer guns fired from a helicopter, were adult or yearling cows.

Moose population gaining in Oregon

WILDLIFE —  The only moose herd in Oregon appears to have doubled in size in recent years, despite deaths in recent years from a parasite.

The Oregonian says the herd numbers about 60 animals today, compared to 30 in 2006.

The carotid worm problem was discovered in about 2010 when biologists captured a moose in Wallowa County to fit it with a radio collar.

The moose died as it was being captured. The worms were found during a necropsy.

The moose are the smallest subspecies in North America, with females weighing up to 800 pounds and males weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

Alaska and Yukon moose are the largest subspecies in North America, weighing about 1500 pounds.

Deer lice new concern for big-game herds

WILDLIFE — Scientists across the West are raising concerns about a growing infestation of exotic deer lice that appears to be killing Columbian black-tailed and mule deer and recently turned up in Nevada.

The infestation has been on the rise, especially in Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico.

Researchers said the non-native lice first appeared in the mid-1990s. They apparently weaken the deer during the long winter months, causing hair loss and distracting them from threats posed by hungry predators like mountain lions.

See the Associated Press story.

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

Rabbits, bears, cougars must be well-cooked, too

HUNTING — While we're on the subject of parasites and other buggers in the meat of the fish and game sportsmen might bring home from the field, here are a couple of subjects I did not cover in today's outdoors column:

Rabbits should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid tularemia. See details.

Bear and cougar meat should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid trichinosis. See details.

Parasites are natural in ducks, fish; but they’re still nasty

HUNTING/FISHING — My outdoors column this week discusses some of the disturbing parasites waterfowl hunters and anglers have discovered in the ducks and fish they've harvested in the Inland Northwest.

They're natural; been around for a long time, and in most cases the game and fish are still safe to eat — as far as we know — as long as you cook the meat to at least 180 degrees.

But would I eat visibly parasitized meat?  What do you think?

  • Waterfowlers: The photo above shows a mallard infested with the sarcocystis parasite, better known as “rice breast.” 
  • Fishermen: Click on the document attached to this blog post to see the pamphlet “Common Parasites and Diseases in Washington Fish,” prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Hunters note that the meat of rabbits, bears and cougars also must be thoroughly cooked to prevent exposure to serious diseases: tularemia and trichinosis.

Documents:

CindyH: I Got Parasite, But Don’t Maul

CindyH, the Hux Online sub blogmistress extraordinaire, wasn’t impressed with that story re: the rogue bear that killed a man near Yellowstone National Park earlier this year. Seems the bear was stressed and had parasites. Facebooks Cindy: “Yeah. Well me, too, buddy. But you don’t see me mauling anyone. Besides, school will start soon, and I’ll be ‘parasite’ free for a few hours a day.”

Question: How many of you are looking forward to the start of school this fall, to be rid of your “parasites” for a coupla hours per day?