August 22, 2019

YWTMP needs your moose and caribou samples!

Calling all moose and caribou hunters - Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project needs your help!

In addition to keeping us up to date with your photos here on iNaturalist, this season, we are asking hunters to bring us a smaller sample of hide so we can carry out a winter tick check. Just a 20cm x 40cm sample, taken from the neck and shoulder region of the animal's right side is needed for us to look for winter ticks.

Pick up your free hide sample kit at Environment Yukon (10 Burns Rd, Whitehorse) which contains instructions and a hide sample template to cut around (or download from our Hide Submissions photos on Facebook 😊). If you want to keep a hide whole, then we can still carry out a winter tick check and return it to you completely undamaged.

Note it's unlikely you'll be able to see winter tick larvae on your kill, as they are super tiny at this time of year (the size of a grain of sand, or a poppyseed)! But we have ways of looking for them in the lab - every sample helps.

And to say thank-you for helping with this research, for every moose or caribou hide or sample submitted you will receive your choice of a top quality thermos or 2 deluxe game bags.

Posted on August 22, 2019 04:58 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 18, 2019

April & May: a peak time for moose - winter tick hair loss

Let us know if you see any moose with patchy hair!

Winter tick infested moose look their 'patchiest' throughout April and May. This is when the ticks that have been attached to them all winter have finished feeding on their blood and are now dropping to the ground.

There are 5 categories of hair loss, ranging from 1 = no hair loss, through to 5 = very severe (ghost moose). You don't have to be able to label the hair loss class to submit an observation, these categories are to help anyone identify when a 'patchy moose' might be a 'ticky moose'.

Similarly, please do share observations of winter ticks on the ground! These are likely to be adult female ticks, getting ready to lay their eggs, and are grey and shiny, roughly the size of a large grape.

image credit: David Legros 2018, via iNaturalist

Submitting a photo to Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring project on iNaturalist is the easiest way to record these observations
--> just upload directly to our project here, or tag 'winter tick'.

Posted on April 18, 2019 01:33 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 16, 2019

Host hair loss over the winter: patchy mooses may be ticky mooses

A reminder to keep an eye out this winter for moose and other host animals (caribou, deer, elk) with patchy hair.

Winter ticks often cause very distinctive hair loss patterns on their hosts - broken hair or bald patches of skin may be visible on the rump, shoulders and neck of infested animals.

Moose with a high number of winter ticks may rub and break their hair resulting in a white-ish appearance (often known as "ghost moose"). Understanding how many animals are affected one year, and how badly, may be a good predictor of the likely tick-burdens for moose the next.

Upload your photos of moose and other hosts to iNaturalist, and join our project here, to help us keep a track of likely winter tick infestations over the winter season.

image credit: TJ Gooliaff
A moose with winter tick related hair loss, British Columbia. Image credit: TJ Gooliaff.

Posted on January 16, 2019 02:57 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 23, 2018

Winter tick larvae - what to look for (September-October)

Newly hatched winter tick larvae are currently active now in Yukon, where they will be looking for a host animal. They are usually found in areas of high animal activity - moose, elk, caribou or deer. If you're out hunting or hiking, you might spot winter tick larvae on vegetation, between 0.5 -1.5m from the ground.

What to look for:
Clusters of tiny red-brown ticks on the top & underside of leaves and woody plant stems. They may be formed into a clump or 'tick ball' or spread over the ends of leaves. Each tick is approximately 1-2mm across (size of a poppy seed!) and has 6 legs - the front pair are long and curved to help them grip onto a passing animal. There may be as many as 150-200 individual ticks in each clump.

Winter ticks, questing

Tick-ball or larval tick aggregation

What to do if you find tick larvae:
Take a photo and note the exact location (GPS coordinates would be great!). Make a note of what the weather's like, the time of day, estimated number of ticks, and if you can, also the type of vegetation they were seen on.

Upload images to here on the Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project page on iNaturalist.

Posted on September 23, 2018 07:50 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 14, 2018

August - October: larval ticks are out hunting for a host

It's hunting season here in Yukon, and winter tick larvae are on the hunt too!
Winter Tick life stages

At this time of year the newly hatched larval ticks - also known as "seed ticks" because of their tiny size - are trying to find a host. Each tick is approximately the size of a grain of sand, but hundreds to thousands of these tiny larvae now climb approximately 1-1.5m from the ground on whatever vegetation available, and clump together in a larger "tick ball". This waiting behaviour, known as "questing", is of key importance if they are to be successful in finding a host. Questing larvae sit and wait, their front legs raised, and as soon as a mammal comes near they wave their legs frantically, hoping to climb on to the host. When one larvae attaches, all of its larval siblings hold on to it - forming a chain - allowing them to all climb aboard! Once on a host, the larvae burrow down into the hosts hair and take their first blood meal. A single host can accumulate tens of thousands of larvae during this transmission season.

Winter ticks are generally not interested in going on humans - they much prefer moose, elk, deer or caribou! However they can mistake people walking by for a suitable host. These ticks are not known to transmit any diseases to humans, but doing a tick check (especially behind the knees, armpits, groin) after long day in the field is a good idea to prevent unwanted hitchhikers!

If you find larvae questing, or come into contact with a tick ball, upload photos to the Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project on iNaturalist, and if possible, bring the larvae in a ziplock bag (along with a note of where you found them) to the Animal Health Unit in Whitehorse.

Posted on August 14, 2018 09:56 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 16, 2018

A new generation of winter tick begins

As the weather starts to warm up, it's the end of one generation of winter tick and the beginning of another. Once female ticks have laid shiny clusters of up to 4000 red-orange eggs in the leaf-litter or "duff layer" on the ground, they die. These tiny eggs are 0.2-3mm across, and now remain on the ground for 100 days or more before hatching.

Winter tick eggs and engorged adult female

There are very few observations of tick eggs in the environment, and so far, none at all in Yukon. As the adults are seen on deer, elk, moose and caribou each year, we know they must be there!

If you find any eggs on the ground that you think might be tick eggs, don't forget to submit your picture and location to the Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring Project page!

Posted on June 16, 2018 04:50 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2018

Start of the off-host season: Adult female ticks on the ground!

Anytime from March through May, adult female winter ticks take their final blood-meal after mating, and drop from the host to the ground. This time of year you might stumble across these grey-brown colored ticks, who are ready to lay their eggs in the duff layer - they are generally so full of blood (engorged) that they can no longer crawl!

Above: a preserved adult female winter tick, approximately the same length as a 5cent piece. (Photo: Emily Chenery 2018)

If you find an adult female tick, or her eggs, don't forget to upload a photo to the Yukon Winter Tick Monitoring project page!

Posted on May 22, 2018 09:04 PM by emilychenery emilychenery | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 04, 2018

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 | 0 comments | Leave a comment