The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s proposal to issue 100 hunting permits in the state’s Wildlife Management Unit E was accepted by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board, The Associated Press reported.
As part of the proposal, Vermont Fish and Wildlife recommended issuing “60 either sex hunting permits and 40 antlerless-only hunting permits” for the 2022 moose hunting season, according to the department’s website.
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The permits, which the department called a “conservative first step” toward addressing the effect winter ticks have on the animals, is expected to result in the killing of 60 moose, or about 5 percent of Vermont’s total moose population.
As their name suggest, winter ticks are a species of North American ticks that find a host in the fall and spend the winter feeding on the animal before dropping off in the spring.
What causes the parasite to be a danger to the moose is their sheer number. Up to 90,000 winter ticks have been observed on a single moose in Vermont, according to the department’s website. When the insects decide to feast on the host animal’s blood in late winter, the moose cannot replace the blood quickly enough, killing or severely weakening the animal.
Although winter ticks can be found on moose populations across New England, they only become problematic in areas of high moose density, like northeastern Vermont. Currently, the state’s Wildlife Management Unit E has fewer than two moose per square mile, which is well above the population density needed for winter ticks to start posing a health problem to the animals.
Warmer and shorter winters linked to climate change have also compounded the effect of the ticks on the animals. Snowfall plays an important role in limiting the number of winter tick larvae that make to adulthood. For decades, the first snowfall of the year kills the larvae and ends the bugs “fall questing period” or time when they search for their moose host, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.
Like many other states, Vermont is getting warmer and wetter with winter weather arriving a week later in the year than it did in the 1960s, according to the Vermont Department of Health. And a later first snow means winter tick larvae have more time to crawl on to a moose. In addition, less snow on the ground means that engorged adult winter ticks have a greater chance of surviving and reproducing once they drop off their host moose in the spring.
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