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Maine Moose Losing Tick Battle

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March 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Maine - According to government figures, this winter was the second-warmest on record in Portland, nearly 5 degrees warmer than normal. Snowfall was half the normal amount.

This "winter that never was" has taken a toll on Maine's moose population. The winter tick, a tiny insect, feeds on the blood of moose. The big animals, as a species, aren't good at grooming, and one moose can carry some 30,000 ticks around. In warm winters, the number can balloon up to 160,000 ticks per moose.

Scratching tick bites leads to a thinner coat, the moose are distracted from foraging, malnutrition and infection set in.

The ticks prevail, says Lisa Pohlmann of the Natural Resources Council.

"They are literally sucking the life out of them, and our foresters are finding them with many of the carcasses still swarming with ticks."

Moose calves can lose their entire blood supply to ticks in a matter of months. A report from the National Wildlife Federation says this is just a preview of what will happen unless elected officials take action to cut climate-changing carbon pollution.

Pohlmann says the report, titled "On Thin Ice," shows the threat from climate change and warming winters to Maine's outdoor traditions and economy as well as to moose and other wild creatures. She says even winter fashion is affected.

"Even L.L. Bean was quoted just last week saying that, in dramatically un-winterlike weather that we just had, there has been a definite impact on their business."

Pohlmann says hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching support thousands of jobs and generate $1.3 billion in economic activity every year. She says that's threatened by what comes out of the state's power plants and those of neighboring states.

"The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of coming out with rules that will start to reduce the carbon pollution from power plants, and this is something that we definitely support."

A U.S. appeals court last month heard arguments on a challenge to those new rules. Its decision could determine whether the EPA can move forward with current and future greenhouse-gas regulations.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME