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

Fraser Valley Bandits draft Abbotsford’s Joel Friesen first overall

Professional basketball team reveals 13 players selected at CEBL draft

Abbotsford council votes to increase their event expense limits

Increase needed in case annual conferences require significant travel, staff say

Plans redrawn for Fraser Valley Inn redevelopment

Owner of building scales back plans on inn site, adds proposal to build second low-rise

LETTER: Why is Jati Sidhu ashamed of his riding?

Lytton’s Christopher di Armani shares his dismay at the potential name change of the MP’s riding

Solitary confinement gets overhaul at Abbotsford prison

‘It’s more social,’ Matsqui Institution’s citizens advisory committee chair says

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

VIDEO: Vancouver fall to Seattle in Game 2 of the playoffs

Thunderbirds topple the Giants 4-1 in Langley, evening the Western Conference series one game each

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Most Read