A cow moose shows signs of winter tick infestation, after rubbing hair off to dislodge blood-filled ticks. Animals with extreme infestations are called “ghost moose,” a condition that is likely fatal. (B.C. forests ministry)

Citizen sightings needed for B.C. moose tick survey

Western Canada struggles with declining moose, caribou populations

The B.C. government has begun its fourth year of a moose winter tick survey, part of its effort to turn around a decline in moose and caribou populations in the province’s Interior.

The program is a key indicator of health for the province’s estimated population of 120,000 to 200,000 moose, measuring spread and impact of large blood-consuming ticks that infest large wild animals in early spring. The survey has had sparse public response since it began in 2015, except for the northern regions of Skeena, Omineca and Peace where most public responses have come from so far.

Moose and caribou population declines have been a significant issue in the B.C. Interior in recent years. Several B.C. Interior Indigenous communities joined together last year to ban non-native moose hunting, rejecting limited-entry hunting rules imposed by the province for what has previously been an open season. The Tsilhqot’in National Government in the Williams Lake area began blocking forest roads last fall to enforce their own wildlife regulations, citing widespread forest fire damage as well as a decline attributed to habitat fragmentation from resource roads and snowmobile trails as well as hunting.

RELATED: Tsilhqot’in block roads to enforce moose hunt ban

Government efforts to stop the decline of caribou herds have also sparked controversy, with local conservation groups arguing they are being shut out of plans to expand protected areas. Environment Canada released a report in December concluding that despite draft plans and provincial promises of caribou protection areas, few steps have been taken to expand habitat protection.

That doesn’t sit well with local conservation groups, who worry that Ottawa will impose its own solutions.

“In our area, it’s not just snowmobiling, it’s the logging industry, it’s the mining industry,” conservation volunteer Pierre Dion of 100 Mile House told a meeting organized by Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett last week.

RELATED: Caribou recovery ‘developed behind closed doors’

RELATED: More talk than action on caribou protection: Ottawa

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has promised that communities will be involved in the decision-making, after concerns were raised at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last September.

Winter ticks tend to be worse in warmer winters, and researchers are tracking climate shifts that also affect forest fire conditions in the summer. But the vast areas create problems for the survey, as well as enforcement of caribou protection areas and hunting laws.

The 2018 survey, released this week, predicts lower than average tick infestations for the coming season, based on snowpack projections for this coming winter and spring.

Responses to the moose survey increased after the pilot year, but have remained low in the Cariboo, Kootenay, Lower Mainland and Okanagan regions. Participants are asked to fill out an online survey at www.gov.bc.ca/wildlifehealth/mooseticksurvey to indicate the loss of winter hair, an indicator of the extent of tick infestation that can weaken and even kill moose between January and April.

Survey forms can also be saved and completed on a computer, tablet or mobile phone and returned via email to FLNRMooseTickSurvey@gov.bc.ca to add to the province-wide database.

Nearly 500 usable survey results were received last year, with 71 per cent of observations classified as adult moose and the remainder calves. Province-wide, a third of the citizen reports indicated signs of winter hair loss in moose.

The tick monitoring program is publicized through local newspapers and radio, outdoor magazines and distribution to conservation officers, wildlife biologists, hunters, trappers and the general public.

Winter ticks also affect whitetail and mule deer, elk and bison, but mainly moose. They are not a hazard for humans.

There are three subspecies in B.C., the large Alaskan Moose in the northwest, the Northwestern Moose across most of the province and the smaller Shiras Moose in the East Kootenay and extending into the U.S.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Parmedics union raises alarm over spike in out-of-service ambulances

Staffing shortages affecting service levels in Kootenays

Update: Car located in Pend d’Oreille River, teenagers remain missing

A fundraiser has been set up at Kootenay Savings in Fruitvale to help support the family

Award winning documentary to be screened in Nelson

‘The Bikes of Wrath’ will run April 5 and 6 at The Front Room

LETTER: Clean water is a right for First Nations

From readers Sandra Hartline and Keith Wiley

Winlaw Elementary to get new playground

It’s being funded by the provincial government

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Most Read