Moose Tick

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name:

Dermacentor albipictus

Appearance

What Do They Look Like?
  • Females: Females are slightly larger than males, are brownish-colored, and have pronounced tan-colored shields thier backs. When fully engorged, females are much larger than the males.
  • Males: Males are less than 1/4 inch long and have brownish mottled patterns on their backs.
  • Larvae: They have six legs and are less than 1/10 of an inch long.
  • Nymphs: Nymphs have eight legs and are only slightly larger than larvae. Both larvae and nymphs are much smaller than adults.

How Did I Get Moose Ticks?

Moose ticks, also called winter ticks, are parasites that feed primarily on the blood of hooved mammals such as deer, elk, caribou, cattle, and horses. Those who spend time in the woods during the fall and winter could encounter moose tick larvae and bring them indoors on their clothing or gear.

How Serious Are Moose Ticks?

These pests do not feed on humans, and there is little concern that moose ticks can transmit disease to people. However, hunters or hikers that are in the woods in the fall months may come into contact with larval stage ticks that are questing. Inside a house, the parasites do not last long without a blood meal from their host animal, so they are not nearly as problematic indoors as other ticks such as the brown dog tick.

How Do I Get Rid of Moose Ticks?

What You Can Do

People venturing into the woods should consider wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, and frequently checking themselves for ticks. If a homeowner is uncertain about how to manage moose tick infestations, ask your pest management professional for assistance and advice.

What Orkin Does

Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage moose ticks and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep moose ticks in their place…out of your home, or business.


Behavior, Diet, & Habits

What Do They Eat?

In addition to moose, this tick species will feed on:

  • Caribou
  • Cattle
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Horses
Where Do They Live?

Conditions that favor large moose tick populations include:

  • High host density.
  • An absence of summer drought that favors egg survival.
  • Early winter snow melt that increases the survival of engorged adults that drop from the host.
  • Warm fall and early winter temperatures with relatively little snow that extends the larval questing (host searching) period.
Geographic Range

Large parts of New England, Minnesota, Canada, and Alaska are home to the pests.

Life Cycle

Moose ticks differ from many other tick species since they are a one-host tick with a one-year life cycle. This means that moose ticks will attach to a host and remain on that host until it drops off and dies. Blood engorged females that drop from their host lay an egg mass that may number up to 3,000 eggs. The eggs hatch in the spring, but larvae stay bunched together in an inactive state throughout the summer.

As the weather cools in the fall months, they become active and wait on leaf litter or low vegetation for a host to brush by before attaching to the host. Because winter ticks do not leave the host, huge numbers of ticks may be found on its host (a study from western Canada estimated an average of 33,000 ticks per moose.)

Effects on Moose

While moose ticks affect most host species to some degree, moose seem to suffer the most. Infested moose react to tick irritation by intensely grooming themselves and by rubbing against trees to remove ticks and “scratch” irritated skin. This response to irritation may often result in hair loss and reduced feeding activities. Moose that are affected by hair loss are sometimes called "ghost" moose since the body areas where the animals has little or no hair looks pale gray, rather than the brown color of normal, intact hair.

The combined results of hair loss, blood loss, and tick irritation can cause serious consequences for hosts. Many times a severely infested and weakened moose will die when facing the cold weather conditions of winter, thus making the animal more likely to starve and perhaps more susceptible to predators. However, even when very heavily tick infested, they may successfully survive the harsh winter conditions if they are otherwise in good health.