Moose infested with winter tick. (Photo courtesy of Dan Bergeron NHFG photo.)
By Mike Bodenchuk, Editor-at-Large
Winter tick, the parasite that has devastated moose populations in Minnesota and New England, is moving its range northward and knocking at Alaska's door. Winter tick has now been confirmed in Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories, where it is infecting elk, deer and moose.
In the past, winter ticks have run in cycles, thriving during milder winters and killed back by cold and snowy winters. With milder winters currently the norm, tick survival has increased, and their range is expanding northward in Canada. If they continue to expand north and west as expected, they will eventually reach Alaska, though it's too soon to say precisely when the ticks might begin affecting moose populations there.
Although moose inhabit the entire state, core moose range is the central part of the state, which should be secure for some years. However, hunters can reasonably expect some impact to moose populations in southeast Alaska and even on the Kenai Peninsula when the tick gets there....