Wildlife Disease Information
Winter Tick or Moose Tick
The winter tick is different than many species of ticks, in that it lives on one host for its entire life. Moose are the most common host for this tick in Maine and they can be severely impacted and even killed by large numbers of ticks feeding on them during the winter. These ticks are found all across North America, but especially in areas where moose are also found. Deer and other animals are usually able to remove these ticks during grooming, but moose are not as successful at grooming themselves and can have over 100,000 ticks on them throughout the winter. The winter tick is not a threat to human health.
For more information on winter tick visit The University of Maine Cooperative Extension or The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
Cutaneous Fibromas (Warts) in Moose & Deer
Cutaneous Fibromas are most often found in deer, but can be observed in moose as well. They are hard, wart-like growths on the skin. Fibromas are caused by a virus that is transmitted through biting insects. They are completely harmless to both the animal and hunter and are merely skin blemishes. For more information on cutaneous fibromas, click here.
Lungworm in Moose
Lungworm is a common parasite that many different animals deal with. The lungworm species that Maine has now identified in its moose population is actually a tapeworm that spends its adult lifetime in the intestines of "canids" (coyotes, foxes and dogs), and its larval stage in the lungs of moose. Moose pick up the worm when they injest eggs from canid feces. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been working with the University of Maine Animal Health Laboratory to identify the species of lungworm we have in Maine as well as to determine the impact they are having on Maine moose.
For more information on lungworm in moose in Maine click here (53 KB).
Rabies is a wildlife/human disease that is caused by a virus that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is fatal if left untreated. Rabies is found nationwide and is transmitted through contact with spinal cord tissue, brain tissue or saliva. The most common animals infected in Maine are skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes. Bats are one of the most dangerous carriers because they have extremely tiny fangs and a bat bite can go undetected. Treatment should be sought if a person (adult or child) wakes to a bat in the room, alive or dead.
The Penobscot Nation dealt with a number of cases of rabies in foxes and raccoons on Indian Island in 2007 and 2008. Animals in an island setting are more secluded from other populations and the disease can spread quickly. The Department of Natural Resources recommends people DO NOT FEED wild animals and to keep trash securely locked up. Animals gathering and fighting over food can quickly spread a disease like rabies. It is also extremely important to have domestic pets routinely vaccinated against rabies so they do not become carriers as well. The Penobscot Nation Police Department participates in a vaccination clinic once a year where tribal members can get cats and dogs vaccinated at a discounted price.
For more information on rabies, click here (31 KB).
Lyme disease has been around since the 1970's and was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut. The disease is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted to humans through the bite of a deer tick. Deer ticks can be found statewide and Lyme disease has been identified in most of Maine. Symptoms often include the presence of a "bulls-eye" rash that can appear days to weeks after infection. However, a rash does not appear in 100% of cases. Other symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, and fatigue immediately after infection. While not fatal, Lyme disease can be extremely debilitating if left untreated or undiagnosed over time. Treatment most often includes high doses of antibiotics given as soon as possible after infection.
Tick numbers and the diseases they carry are spreading nationwide. Several reasons for this include:
- Suburbanization - which brings together people, wildlife and ticks;
- An increase in white-tailed deer;
- Migratory birds that carry ticks to new areas;
- A movement toward the preservation of open space and the replanting of trees; and
- The use of fewer insecticides.
A common misconception is that a cold or snowy winter kills off deer ticks, which is not the case. It has to be extremely cold (~10 F) for an extended period of time to kill off large numbers of ticks. Snow actually acts as insulation for the adult deer ticks as they burrow into leaf litter in the fall. While the adults often die in the spring or early summer months when they run out of energy reserves, the poppy-seed sized nymphs become active at this time, leaving little or no breaks in exposure. Female ticks need a bloodmeal in order to lay their eggs and ticks have been known to survive up to a year without a bloodmeal!
Performing "tick checks" on oneself and children is strongly encouraged after time outside, especially when visiting southern and coastal Maine.
For more information on Lyme disease, click here.