April: a peak time for host hair loss

The end of March and early April is when winter tick induced hair-loss (alopecia) is the most noticeable on infested hosts, especially for moose. Winter ticks mate and take their last blood meal around now, before adult females drop from the host to lay their eggs. Having been present on their host all winter, the impact of the ticks feeding and of host scratching can result in distinctive 'patchy' appearance in the hair coat of moose and elk especially, but potentially also caribou and deer.

Patterns of patchy hair are particularly noticeable around the back of the neck, which may be bald or with a deep 'V' of lost hair; the shoulders, and in the most severe cases, the front and sides of the animal. This is because hosts rub themselves on trees and other surfaces, continually groom and scratch to relieve the discomfort of a tick infestation, resulting in broken hair and/or broken skin. Note that mild or even moderate loss of hair is unlikely to result in host death, but more severe loss can result in loss of essential body heat, secondary infection from broken skin, and the effects of blood-loss (anemia) where tick densities are extremely high.

Be sure to upload any observations of moose, elk, deer or caribou with patchy hair to the Winter Tick Project page!

Posted on April 04, 2018 04:37 PM by emilychenery emilychenery


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