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More Ticks Equals More Concern for New Hampshire Moose Population

PHOTO: A new report from the National Wildlife Federation finds winter ticks are becoming more abundant in New Hampshire, in part because of less severe winters. The ticks pose a threat to the depleted New England moose population. Photo credit: Paul Anderson/Morguefile.
PHOTO: A new report from the National Wildlife Federation finds winter ticks are becoming more abundant in New Hampshire, in part because of less severe winters. The ticks pose a threat to the depleted New England moose population. Photo credit: Paul Anderson/Morguefile.
September 2, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. - With autumn around the corner, a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) finds New Hampshire's winter tick population is growing because of climate change. More ticks spells bad news for the already-depleted New England moose population.

Hunter and wildlife biologist Eric Orff serves as New England outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. A contributor to the NWF report, he says the longer snow stays on the ground the more winter ticks die off, but climate change keeps altering the equation in New Hampshire, giving baby ticks more time to latch onto local moose.

"If there is a long, long fall into November, then it gives these little baby ticks a whole extra month to climb on moose," says Orff. "An early spring and a later winter is a kiss of death for a moose."

Report author Dr. Doug Inkley says there is a growing body of evidence linking the warming climate to changes in both wildlife and the environment.

"It's not our imagination. This is already happening," he says. "We must take action now for our children's future, and for our outdoor experience future. These things are happening now."

Along with moose, the National Wildlife Federation report notes winter ticks also impact elk, caribou and deer.

Orff says the changing climate also is responsible in a spike in deer ticks, which can serve as the source for Lyme disease, a significant health problem for humans.

"It feeds on a human. It gives you this Lyme disease, which I actually had over a decade ago," says Orff. "It's one of the fastest increasing diseases in New England."

The report, titled Ticked Off: America's Outdoor Experience and Climate Change, also warns that pests like tiger mosquitoes are now forecast for states as far north as Maine. Thus far the mosquitoes have only been found as far up the east coast as Long Island.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH